Hi everyone. Even though I try to read the wreck almost every day, I
haven't posted in almost a year. Nothing worthwhile to post as the
queries I'm competent to answer seem to have good answers and replies
before I get to them. So I've been happy to sit in the back and just
watch over what's been going on. Until this weekend, and then this is
Twenty years ago my fire department (yes, I used the possessive because
I've poured out my heart and have had it rejuvenated in the activities
of the East Andover Fire Department) decided to raffle a canoe at a
summer barbecue and for twenty years we've sold tickets, peeled
potatoes, cooked chicken and begged for our wives, mothers and
neighboring womenfolk to bake pies. Its a lot of effort, but also a lot
of fun and the good will we generate in our community is worth every bit
of the work we put into it. As a fund raiser its worth every bit of the
good will we generate!
Each year two families with summer properties near the fire station hold
family reunions on the weekend of the barbecue and they each bring 30 -
50 family members. Their strong support each year has played a
significant part in our success and someone from each family has won a
canoe at some point over the years. (Of course with the number of
raffle tickets they've bought they've paid for six canoes apiece!)
Well Saturday the barbecue went off without a hitch and at 7:00 PM we
were holding the drawing. The horse shoe playing stops. The beer
drinking near the fire pit calms down so they can hear, and most people
gather round. The drum is rotating, stirring up the tickets and I look
to the audience for a child to pull the ticket so that everyone is aware
the drawing is on the up and up. (My daughter won last year) A young
girl is looking excited and I don't recognize her which is odd because
after twenty years I know almost everyone, or at least their parents.
I ask if she would like to draw a ticket and she jumps and bounces and
comes forward. We introduce ourselves and her name is Claire. Her dad
yells out that if he doesn't win she's walking home three states over
and Claire's smile just gets bigger and bigger. Claire pulls the ticket
and reads aloud in a strong voice the winner's name and address. I
shake her hand and thank her for doing a great job.
Inside a few minutes later Claire's uncle comes up to me and shakes my
hand and is profusely thanking me for making his and his whole families
weekend. I don't understand what he means, they've always enjoyed the
barbecue and we appreciate his and his families support. "No, no" he
says, "Claire has cancer and is right on the bubble, we don't know
whether she'll make it or not. This is the first year that she has been
well enough to attend the weekend reunion and come to your barbecue, and
you picked her. You just made her feel special." Now I've got tears in
my eyes, just like watching a sappy TV movie.
I move on and am cleaning up when there's a tug at my shirt. I look
down and Claire with a grin, says thank you for picking her to draw the
ticket. I reached down and hugged her. I held on long enough so I
could wipe my eyes dry. Then she ran out of the station with that big
smile to played with her cousins.
So now I have the answer to why do volunteer firemen respond to our
pagers day after day, year after year, from the mundane, to the serious,
to the tragic. We do it for the way we feel when someone like Claire
says thank you.
And I also have the answer to why we turn to woodworking or other
hobbies. It's for when they don't or they can't.