Stories that inspire 

A Message from your local Fire Department!

I will be forever grateful for some lessons learned while serving on our local volunteer Fire Department. What fire fighter hasn’t watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos where you can learn even more lessons about priorities and value?

People over property. 

This is the general sentiment among firemen (People over property). It didn’t start out this way for me. At first I was so taken up with the “apparatus” and gear, trying to learn how to operate under pressure. Preparedness and how to survive in harsh environments is quite important there is no doubt. So, people over property, what’s up with that? In one of the many videos I watched, there was an apartment fire with two children hurt quite badly. The officer in charge put them in the only fire truck on scene and headed to the hospital. Leaving the building to burn and to be taken care of by whatever truck was the next arrival. There was some opposition, but the officer said, “people over property” and off he drove. The value message here was quite clear. “You are far more valuable than material things”!

Another time my pager went off just before going to work. As I drove to the firehouse, I could see a serious column of smoke raising hundreds of feet into the air. That can never be good. A house trailer was on fire, “fully involved”. Meaning survival is in no way possible. Pulling up, my eyes caught a glimpse of the residents. A father and his little girl, maybe seven or eight years old. They were just calmly leaning against the fence watching the scene unfold. Wow what a loss, they didn’t have much to start with and now it was all burning to the ground. The look on their faces was my value lesson that day. They had each other and that was a lot. Certainly all that mattered. They were speaking a Value message to each other without uttering a word.

Right then I decided I didn’t care about your property. I can’t speak for other firefighters, but I’m guessing my thoughts won't be too far off. When it comes to property I couldn’t possibly care less about what can burn to the ground. 

Ok, let me tell one more fire story and I promise to go on to the next subject! One hot summer day we got two calls for field fires at the same time, at different locations. The one we responded to was started by a hot bearing on a round baler. About five acres and six or more bales were on fire. Fire likes hot and dry anything. Anyway we worked on this for about an hour before it was under control and “stomped” out.

While we were getting equipment cleaned off and put away the farmer came over to us to talk. He was worried and apologetic. He had beat himself up pretty good about the whole thing and asked how much this would cost, clearly thinking the worst case scenario. Kurt, one of the firefighters who seemed to know the man, almost made me cry with his gracious comments. Although I hid the “cry” thing at the time. Kurt assured him that paying taxes was enough and being in the Fire Protection District, there would be no charge. Reassured him he had done the right thing and thanked him profusely for even calling us. Kurt, speaking for every fireman on the planet, said “we’re just here to help”. My takeaway was another valuable message. Our farmer friend got the message too. You are what’s valuable, not your property! Don't forget that.

Kids "now-a-days"!


You have a great amount of potential. What a fun subject potential is! Potential is sort of like a catapult that is set. There is a lot of stored energy just waiting to be triggered. That’s my analogy for you! There is no way to know how much potential you have until you pull the handle. Look at all the viral YouTube videos that give witness to this truth. Rescues. Stunts. Close calls. Endurance and scary things, just to start the list. 

One of my favorite “kids now-a-days” stories is on such a list. By the way, kids now-a-days are amazing if you haven’t noticed. When I was young, kids were more average and mediocre. Except Terry Archdale, who lived down the street from us. He could swallow air and burp at will for an embarrassing amount of time. It’s all relative but we figured he was the coolest kid on the planet! 

Yeah this video is really good. On a hot summer day some boys are weaving in and out of cars in a parking lot. What? Why can’t they be at home texting or playing video games like other kids? Their unreasonable parents just made them get out of the house or something. 

Suddenly one of the boys sees a child locked in a vehicle. Immediately he tries to smash the window with his skateboard. This does not work. Tempered glass is not easily broken except in the movies. A crowd starts to gather, taking video and pictures. Someone calls 911. Suspense builds, I’m on the edge of my chair. Dude, seconds are ticking away.

Luckily, Hercules was on scene and grabs a concrete parking post out of the ground and rams it through the window. When the cement post speaks… window listens! The glass is cleared, someone opens the door and gets this hot sweaty kid out and cooled down. You know what kids do “nowadays”? They save lives. Yes that’s right, they save peoples lives. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. It was literally minutes away from a tragedy.

Let me say more before we get to the value lesson. I would love to meet the boy who first started to break the window. His courage and quick action was truly heroic. I just picture my cowardly side in the same scenario. It could have gone something like this… “Oh, no there is a kid in that car”. “Oh, I don’t want to get involved or make a scene”. “Someone else should be doing this”. “Not my job”. “People think I’m just a no account skateboarder anyway, they’ll think worse of me if I start tearing up this car”. “Wow that car looks expensive, I don’t want to scratch it”. “I just don’t know what to do, so guess I’ll just do nothing”. 

If you watch that video there is not the remotest hint of such dialog. Not the slightest. This young man took immediate action with the tools he had in hand. This drew a crowd and utilized resources. People made themselves available to help. An added bonus was that Hercules was close at hand with the concrete post. This was the kind of kid that would have scratched the window until his fingers bled to help that little child, ya know. His action inspired more action. The value message to the hot tot was “you are valuable, we don’t care what it takes”! 


The Doctor is in. What Rachael taught me. 

In elementary school I was shown a lesson about compassion. I’ve never forgotten this event, but it was a long time before the light came on.

Sheridan Elementary School, Bloomington Illinois, early 1980’s. There was a new girl in school, her name was Rachael. Her family had less than we did, she never had new clothes and often they were not clean. She had no friends and ashamedly kids made fun of her. Despite all this, she was a really happy kid. While relieved that kids made fun of her and not me, I didn’t enter into this teasing. For sure not because I was such a good little boy, certainly I was not. I was afraid my dad would find out and I would be toast. 

Dad did not tolerate us making fun of people for something they couldn’t help. “Not tolerate” is putting it lightly. He had Polio as a child and this left him with a deformed leg, perhaps he was the brunt of teasing or bullying, I’m not sure. But one thing I was sure of was that serious wrath would be unleashed and I didn’t want any part of it, had he discovered that I was making fun of this little girl. Dad’s unyielding view on this subject has been a gift for me that keeps on giving. Thanks dad!

That same year our school got a new principal, Dr. Garrett. What? A Doctor? That was very confusing for us fifth graders. After all, the school nurse seemed to be doing a great job. Who knows what goes on in the adult mind anyway. We all met Dr. Garrett who seemed normal enough, didn’t even wear a white coat. He liked us and we all really liked him, but having a doctor in school seemed “over the top”. 

One day in the cafeteria Rachael collapsed on the floor, out like a light! Woah, us kids had no idea what to do. We couldn't help her because we were afraid to touch her. 

Here's a metaphor to write home about. You will never help people that you are afraid to touch (and connect with), never ever!  

The cafeteria ladies rushed over to her, someone said “go get Dr. Garrett”. Of course that made sense, now was for sure an appropriate time to have a doctor in the house. Apparently the adults were thinking ahead for once!

Dr. Garrett came running into the cafeteria, knelt down over Rachel, scooped her up in his arms just like she was his own little girl. Read that again. We could see right away that Dr. Garrett couldn’t possibly have cared less about her clothes, her family's economical/ social status or if she had any friends. Didn’t care about any of that, not at all! And how awesome that he didn’t even care in the least bit what all the “gawkers and talkers” were thinking (us kids)! He took her to the nurses office, called an ambulance and off she went to see yet another doctor. I never did know what happened to Rachael, she was soon back in school and this never happened again. Maybe she was distraught and collapsed because we didn't know how to befriend her! Shame on us for not seeing her value.

So, for the longest time I thought the “cafeteria” incident was the big part of this story. Guess what… it’s not. The bigger part, I promise you, is that Dr. Garrett cared about that little girl on the first day she came to school. He cared about her long before he so carefully picked her up off the floor. The cafeteria was just a place that shined a really bright light on the care and compassion he felt toward Rachael already. 

Dr. Garrett understood Rachael’s value before she even came to our school. The Value message here is: I care about what I think about you my friend. Not what others think about you. You are amazing! 

I don’t recall one single word Dr. Garrett ever spoke, but I’ve never forgotten what he did.