Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" = #26Acts

     Remember when we were kids and were taking a long drive with our parents, or perhaps on a camp bus on the way to an event? What's the first song the comes to mind, most often used to kill time and perhaps, to drive your parents or the bus driver crazy?
     "A hundred bottles of beer on the wall,
     A hundred bottles of beer;
     You take one down and pass it around,
     Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall.
    Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera.
     A dedicated group of kids could keep that ditty going right through either the very end and the last bottle, or your parent turning around and yelling, "If you kids don't stop singing that piece of crap, we ain't going nowhere! Got it?"
     Several years ago, the term, "Pay it forward," entered our vernacular. At first, many people didn't understand the message that it was bringing to the masses. "Who's paying for what? Are you paying for me? What am I paying for? What is 'paying it forward?" 
     Slowly, people began to understand the turn of the phrase, to do something good for someone other than yourself. It didn't necessarily have to deal with cold, hard cash. It might have meant to do someone a favor; help someone out with a problem. And when finished helping them and they thanked you, you would advise them to "pay it forward," and do something nice for someone else. And so on.
     Those of us in the fire-rescue service are always ready to help someone else out. Rarely does that help come in the form of money. Most of the time, that help comes as we respond to that person's emergency situation. In both my eight active years, as well as the time Dalmatian Productions has been around to try and shoot or gather video of emergency responders, there have been plenty of occasions when we would be sitting around, just waiting for the bells to ring. And sometimes, we would actually acknowledge that for us to be able to perform our services, someone would have to suffer, in some manner. What a horrible  thought that turned out to be. For us to do a good deed, someone would have to have a serious need for our help. We didn't cause it, nor did we create it. This has almost always been the relationship between emergency services personnel and the public that they serve. However, what happens after the emergency is over? Do we just roll up our hoses, wash the apparatus, and wait for the next call? Or do we reach up and pull another "bottle" off of the "wall?"
     Many, many, many of us have been searching for ways to reach out and help both the families and the community of Newtown, CT. None of us, even in our deepest, darkest, place, could ever conceive of perpetrating such a heinous act as the cold-blooded killing of twenty children, ages 6-7, and six wonderful adults who had dedicated themselves to the art of elementary education. What's done is done and we cannot "unblow that horn," as a late friend of mine would often say. So what next? We all cannot make our way up to Connecticut to try and lend a hand, though many strangers have done exactly that! Three teenagers from Georgia drove through the night, to visit with students from Newtown High School, just to give them a hug. As one of the travelers said, "I know if this had happened to me, I'd need a hug to help me."
     Yesterday, NBC journalist, Ann Curry posted a tweet with the simple Twitter code of #26Acts. Her idea was that one of the best ways to honor the memories of the 26 victims of the Newtown killings, was to turn evil into goodness. For each victim, perform an act of kindness. Immediately, the tweet went viral, across the U.S. and across the globe. Responding tweets told of everything from simply helping someone cross the street to turning over the proceeds of a well-earned paycheck to another who has been unemployed for several months. These and thousands of others have been "paying it forward" for more than twenty-fours hours now.
     Even before I knew of the #26Acts, I was trying to think about what I could do to help out there. As I sat here at my computer, I was running the multiple videos that had been playing out on the various news outlets on Friday and through the weekend. Then it donned on me. I thought about that part of me that has never left my soul and still defines who I am. I am a boy of the firehouse. And I thought about my brothers and sisters in Newtown and the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department. They were some of the first rescuers on scene. What they saw was no less what is scene on a battlefield, on any given day. The horror and tragedy of war were thrown in their faces last Friday. So, I wrote the following to them:
"To my sisters and brothers in Newtown CT - On Friday, you answered an alarm that no amount of training could have ever prepared you or any of us who have or currently serve the fire-rescue service, for. Drills and simulations are one thing; the horror of Friday, December 14th, could not have even been imagined.Yet, as we your colleagues would expect, you acted with valor and bravery, above and beyond the call of duty.

However, this is who we are and what we do; we, along with our sisters and brothers, in blue, run in when everyone else is running out, of emergency situations.

In the highest honor and regard of the history of the American Fire-Service, thank you for your courage, your dedication, and your perseverance to the goals of our vocation or avocation. May the Almighty guard and protect you and yours, and bring you solace and comfort for your efforts."
"Twenty-six Acts of Kindness to do,
Twenty-six martyrs we share,
I took one down and shared it around,
Twenty-five Acts of Kindness I bear..."