Monday, December 17, 2007

Across the street to the fire

Today around 2:45 a local neighbors knocked on my front door while I was studying in my office to ask if I had already called 911. "What for?" I asked. "That!" he exclaimed pointing to the curtain of black smoke rising from the house across the street from me. He was already on the phone with emergency services so I didn't make a redundant call. Within moments of his phone call my pager went off alerting me that the Fate Fire Dept was being summoned to the scene. I donned my Fate Fire uniform and came out into the street to assist the Rockwall County Sherrif''s officer on scene however I could.

At first I felt helpless. I wanted to run immediately through the front door (the officer had broken it in to make sure no one was home) and rescue whatever I might find that needed to escape the heat and flames (people, pets, family heirlooms, prize possessions, etc), but at the same moment new that I had as yet received no training for such actions, and that any rash impulse at this time could very well complicate the process for my colleagues who were enroute. Having no authority, training or equipment to perform what your instincts call out to do is a frustration remedied only by performing all that you can do.

For this reason, I was pleased to be useful in helping children remain safely away from the fire-ground (sending kids coming home from school at that time, who live in the house to the right and the left of the involved home, to my house), comfort and counsel the home owner on his next steps for getting assistance, and help with stowing away hose on the apparatus when it was no longer needed. It was my first fire event wherein my role as a chaplain was executable. I'm so sorry for the family who lost their home just a week before Christmas. I hope the assistance of family and insurance services is helpful and soothing at this time. But having said that, I would be dishonest were I not to admit the euphoria that accompanies service of this type. It is a mystery, but in a strange way this destructive incident creates opportunities for the joys of service.

It's a shame that service opportunities are born of tragedy, but such is the nature of our world. Consider the beauty of redemption bought for us through the death of Christ. How horrible that his sacrifice was necessary, yet how wonderful is the redemption that followed. There's a distinct kind of beauty that is only extractable from the ugly. The beauty of a neighborhood gathering to help a family that most of them didn't know was born of the ugliness of a house fire. Could it be that this is a major glimpse of God's grace evident in life? When he is able to draw the beauty of community out of the ugliness of tragedy?

In this way it would seem quite legitimate to find blessing in this event. The blessing of observing a community's character, of experiencing the joys of service, and even in seeing all the family's beloved pets spared. The family who lost their house today faces many challenges ahead, needing the grace of God evident in very tangible ways over the coming days, weeks and months. In the meantime, I will suggest that the grace of God is already evident in how the firefighters served their community, in how the neighborhood responded and in how delighted I was to be a part of it all. Service brings joys that are uniquely acquired only in such intense times, and I thought I should be honest about it.

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