Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving South Burlington, Vermont - Building Community Through Thanks {Firefighting Story of Thanks}

All I said was "Thank You". I wish I had said more. 

Years ago as a volunteer WFD firefighter, I awakened to the shrill alarm of a fire call; the early morning was bitter cold, and dark.  Frost came off my car windshield in chunks as though I was defrosting a neglected freezer. Nearly an hour into the fire of an old two-story brick building, with temperatures continuing to dip well below freezing, my hands became one with the nozzle that I held, directing water onto the ice-caked remnants.  Crouched in a near sitting position, in a half a foot of water, mud, and ice, I relished the thought that ice fishing on Lake Champlain might be a nice warm getaway.

Attempting to close down the water, my hands seemed no longer connected to me.  My arms pulled the nozzle lever closed as another firefighter took up the hose line. A short time later, inside a Salvation Army bus, my coat and gear crackled, as bits of ice buckled and broke off shattering on the bus floor. A Salvation Army volunteer handed me a cup of coffee; only I found I could not grasp it with my hands. The volunteer pulled off my gloves and held my hands for a few seconds; the shock drove into me like a lightning bolt.  Pain dissolved into comfort as my hands, slowly warmed and became flexible again.  Soon I was holding a cup of coffee, smelling and sipping an aroma from heaven, and amazingly comforting.

Never has a cup of coffee tasted so good; seldom has a warm and comforting hand meant so much.  I wish I had said more than mutter a shivering Thank you, to those volunteers from the Salvation Army, who left their warm homes on a frigid morning, to serve hot coffee, and a warm shelter, for those in need.

An unexpected knock on our door one night, alarmed me; a young woman crouched down on the doorstep.  “Is this your dog?” she asked.  Befuddled, I automatically looked behind me expecting to see our dogs in our home. (Unbeknownst to me they had gone out unleashed through a cellar door inadvertently left ajar.)  She left me with one dog, while she ran back nearly half a block to retrieve the other dog in her car- she had spotted them in the road; one had led her back to our home. Somewhat in shock and surprise and finally in relief, I said, “Thank you so much”.  I wish I had said more, how we love our dogs, how much we appreciate her rescue and return of our beloved pets.

Just outside a grocery store, a young man wearing a yellow safety vest over slumped shoulders, held his head low, while sweeping up tree litter, and people litter-a job task not highly sought. “Nice job”. “Thank you for cleaning this area, it looks so much better.”  His chin lifted, and a smile from within brought self-esteem to his expression.  A Golden Broom Award could not have done more to honor the fine work that young man was doing.

Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful.  Acts of kindness, on the job professionalism, service to our country, volunteerism-deserve acknowledgement throughout the year.  

Search for the opportunity to express your honest, genuine, sincere and specific gratitude to someone else; acknowledge the hardship and effort and the positive results they brought forth.  Thank them, even if it is their job, even if they are strangers-especially if they are strangers- how better to build community?


Explore more about ways to express gratitude from, The Gratitude campaign @
And, How to say Thank You @

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