What can you pass on from childhood?
By Anthony Correia
In the fire service, we learn lessons from many different sources. Many of the values and culture we bring to the fire service come from our upbringing as children. They have a significant impact on the way we live our lives. With that perspective in mind, I compiled a list of lessons firefighters bring to the fire service from their childhoods.
Below, 34 fire service personnel of all ranks and years of experience were asked the following question:
“What is at least one thing you learned as a child that is transferable to “today’s” Fire & EMS to make the service better?”
They provided us with a wide-ranging list of answers that I believe are worthwhile for you to take into consideration as words to live by in the fire service and life in general.
Family is important; Blood as well as extended family. Fire & EMS is a family
History matters. Words matter.
Always be a student! Don’t embarrass your Mother.
Treat everyone with respect and dignity.
The Golden Rule.
Pick up after yourself so you don’t leave a mess for someone else. This goes way beyond the obvious of not leaving things just laying around, it applies to leaving the department.
Treat others like you want to be treated.
To “go look it up.“ That’s what my mom would tell me whenever I asked her what a word meant.
My dad would say the same thing, only later would he admit that sometimes it was because he didn’t know either.
You can learn from other’s mistakes. Sometimes you learn they are idiots.
Some of the things older folks tell you seem stupid. In retrospect, it was damned good advice. Figure that out before it’s too late! “God gave you two ears and one mouth for good reason; listen twice as much as you talk.”
What’s said here, stays here! Point being you don’t put your family’s business out on the street.
DTRT – Just Do The Right Thing; JDTRT is merely guidance, just like “be nice”. I always told people there isn’t always a class or a book on the shelf to tell you what’s “right.” The simplicity is in its subjectivity. JDTRT is a concept, not a rule.
Patience. Sometimes you don’t always get what you want when you want it.
My first Lieutenant, Bob Witte said “We do one thing at a time. We do it very well. Then we do the next thing.”
Do what you say you will do. Always listen to others even if you do not agree.
The importance of station chores (dishes, floors, toilets, making beds). When you do these small things consistently, taking pride in what you have, the big things take care of themselves!
Get up, go to work, and give 100% while you are there!
Growing up on a farm the value of hard work has never let me down.
Do your best work and be kind.
Sometimes better to be seen than heard
Go outside and play.
Share! At that age, it was toys. At this age, it’s knowledge. If I have a toy you don’t have, you’ve gotta call me so I can use it on your scene. If I think I know something you don’t, I’m not really smarter if I don’t share it.
Listen to your elders; experience means a lot.
Don’t speak with your mouth full.
Share your knowledge!
My father almost preached this constantly. It didn’t matter what someone else did you had to be nice.
Attention to detail
Some things are bigger than oneself. Service to others is a reward to its own. It is an honor to be selfless.
1) Reading makes you smarter than watching television. It also improves your spelling, grammar and writing skills. 2) Don’t procrastinate. 3) Clean up after yourself. 4) Always tell the truth 5) Be yourself because it’s easy to spot a phony
1) Own up to your mistakes, especially when it’s hard. 2) Always aim to be the hardest worker in the room. 3) Sir/ma’am. 4) Respect your elders. 5) Listen more than you speak. 6) If you break it, fix it. 7) If you form an opinion, stick to it. 8) Have integrity.
In closing, Lex Shady leaves us with a few words to bring perspective to this conversation,
“State to state and across generations these childhood lessons helped to shape the firemen and EMS providers that we are today. While our experiences and departments vary, our core values remain the same: strive to provide the best services possible. It is our hope that by continuing to share these lessons with future generations, we can leave the job a little better than we found it.”
Anthony Correia has 43 years of fire and EMS service. 30 of those years in senior leadership positions, rising to chief, in both career and volunteer organizations. Tony is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program and currently an officer with the New Jersey State Fire Chiefs Association. He is also a National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Advocate & LAST member. Tony has presented several times at FDIC and written articles for FireRescue Magazine & FirefighterNation. You can find more at acorr1954.com