I wouldn’t be needing that reflective road vest. This thing was a smaller version of the Sun and I had to put it on my already noticeably large head. The guys on the truck had leather, smoked out lids. With burnt fronts that said loud and proud “yeah, I fight fire… so what”.
Mine just said “I’m new”.
Turns out with just a few moments in the fire service I had discovered a fire service phenomenon.
But all I had noticed was the outside salt. The salt firemen throw up so people know they ‘do work’. When you start to spend some time with your new family you start to see their true salt.
Before we go too far we should talk about this term… Salty.
I asked earlier this week what our readers thought it meant.
Several ideas came to mind such as when a hard worker “ is worth is his salt” . I thought it meant the saltiness that came with sweat. Or when you hear someone is “salty as a sailor”. An old sailor spent most of his time on the salty sea with just his fellow sailors. We all know what a “mouth like a sailor” means. I’m sure we have guys that sport this salt in the house; but it still isn’t what I am thinking of. That’s not the kind of salt I would want to bring home.
A good friend summed it up almost perfectly though:
“Salty = someone who is molded through the situations they have seen or experiences they’ve dealt with”
I really like that but I know from my Bible it could mean something different. Maybe the same… but different.
I know from history class that salt (and spices) were associated with wealth. So I figured salt without flavor would just be sand. It still didn’t make much sense. I asked my Pastor about it. He said salt was often used for preservation. Without refrigeration meat would spoil. But the meaning goes even deeper than that.
Jesus was telling his disciples that they are charged with the preservation of the Earth. They are the salt of the EARTH. Should we lose our flavor we are worthless to the keeping of his word. The cultures, traditions, and values we hold dear. Would all be lost. Trampled underfoot as worthless. You and I are the salt of the Fire Service.
So with these things in mind. Who are the salty guys really? The ones who sport their melted bourkes or the ones who mold the next generation of firefighter?
Often times the “salty dog” in the house is the one to give the new guy the cold shoulder. The one to knit pick their performance rather than train them. The one that makes himself look good by breaking everyone else around him down. I don’t want that salt. Not even a little bit.
I want to be the salt that preserves. The salt that takes the values of the fire service keeps it. I want to take this job and leave it better than I found it.
You can be molded by your experiences and pass them on. Learn from them and teach them.
You can let your experiences best you. Wear the salt just on the outside but never let it preserve you. You lose your flavor and thus you lose touch with that firefighter you were when you took the oath. You become worthless and thus. You begin to feel trampled by everything and everyone around you.
Thinking back to the new firefighter vs the old firefighter. If you take your salt and let it preserve you will go through several transformations. Whether they are destructive or constructive will depend on you.
So I’ll outline the idea of transformation below and touch a bit on what it would mean to “lose” that salt.
Invigorated to Reinforced.
Burnout is very real. Reach out to your brothers. No one expects you to just be “salty” enough to preserve yourself as you are. That is why the brotherhood is there for you. Through just talking to friends, an employee assistance program, or reaching out to the union. This job is tough. To get the most out of your salt. Build each other up and preserve the brotherhood that makes us great.
Interested to Involved
The interest you had when you walked in the door won’t be enough to keep you here. If you do not get adequately involved with the service and your department this will cease to be your calling and quickly become your JOB. So mentor the new guy, take pride in your station or in the truck you drive. Eat together! I can’t tell you how many problems have been solved around the firehouse table. That is a closely guarded firefighter secret. Just get involved.
Enthusiastic to Dedicated
Is this your hobby? Or is it your passion? Sorry this may be ‘my salt’ talking, but if you swore an oath to this job then you swore an oath to everyone in your response area to be the best you that you can be. It’s one thing to say you like firefighting but it is completely another to dedicate yourself to it. Make it A priority. But wait see that capital A?
Yeah this is still Fully Involved FATHER. I’m gonna bring this idea home in just a minute. Sit tight.
Excited to Calm
“Whoa wait. Did you say to calm? No I want to be excited for this job!”
Slow down there little Timmy. That is not what I mean. I mean cool, collected, and in a state or readiness. Perhaps scared would be a better term, but that’s not what I mean either. The idea is to avoid complacency while maintaining your readiness. We have all seen the recruit spraying the smoke at the front door when the fire is around the corner. As you grow “salty” you kind of experience a calm. You have been molded by your experiences. “Act like you’ve been there before kid!”.
This is where we start to see a lot of that outward salt being thrown around. Let me clear something up on that. Fully Involved Father supports the idea of going home to your family at the end of the day and retiring to hold your grandbabies.
That outside salt is cancer. The rookie is excited to put that smoke on his lid. Where the salty dog gets back to the station and cleans his gear. Calm down. Get ready for the next one.
That salt you have on the inside is steady preserving the qualities the fire service needs. People will notice it and notice its reliability, its merit. A melted helmet isn’t doing any of that. No matter how cool it looks.
Bring it home now…
Now. You can call it lazy if you want. But it won’t take much take this home so I’m not going to stretch too far for a correlation.
Preserve your family. Be the Dad that is molded by experience and passes it down for the better of his family. When my daughter came along I was scared, excited, and almost worthless as a dad. But through friends, and family, my wife, and church I have grown. My son came along and I was ready. Salty as can be. With him I continue to grow. I use what I learn to mold him and make sure he is ready for this world. So when the time comes he can be the Salt of the Earth himself and the forces that are out there and act against us at all times won’t cause him to lose his flavor.
If you are looking for the Bible verse that goes here. I “snuck” them in. Today I will use this spot to thank some awesome, truly salty, firefighter companies. No matter who I turn to in building this site. I always get nothing but help and encouragement. Check these guys out.