Blog: Friends and Flashlights

I remember as a young firefighter responding to a structure fire in the south end of town. Upon arrival, we had a single-story, single-family dwelling with heavy smoke from the bravo [left] side. My captain told me to pull a pre-connect and make entry. RIT teams, two in, two out were not policy.

I donned my breathing apparatus, pulled the pre-connect, and made entry to the front door. I clicked in my air, ready for entry. 

“A routine structure fire,” I thought. “We got this!” 

Upon entry, I was met with thick, dark, acidic smoke. I could not see two feet in front of me. I could feel the heat but could not see the fire—just dark, thick smoke with no visibility.

I pulled my flashlight out of my turnout coat. I clicked it on, and nothing happened. I swear I just checked it a couple of days ago. I am always good with my morning check of my equipment on the rig. However, I made a big mistake—one I will never forget. What seemed like a few days ago must have been more like several weeks. I failed to check my flashlight,  and the batteries were dead. The routine structure fire became a big challenge for me. No visibility and no hand light. Quickly the room grew darker; I became lost, going by feel only. Minutes seemed like hours. 

“Stay calm,” I reminded myself. “Jesus, I swear, if you give me the chance, I will never forget to check my flashlight and always ensure my batteries are working.”

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Crawling blindly, bumping into things, and with who knows what falling on top of me, I was lost.

In the background, I could hear the faint sounds of sirens of other resources arriving. Thank God the ladder truck arrived on scene quickly. The sound of chainsaws punching through the roof and ceiling above me was music to my ears. Before long, the smoke, heat and gases were venting up and out through the roof. 

“Thank you, Jesus!” I thought.

That day, I failed not only myself, but one of my best tools: my flashlight. Friends are a lot like flashlights. When the flashlight goes weak or stops working do you just throw it away? Of course not. You change the batteries.

The holidays are upon us. We have been through some rough patches over the past year-and-a-half. This has brought division among families, friends, and co-workers. But it’s time to set our differences aside and be a light for others. There are many who can use a friend. Like the above, everyone seems to be in their own survival mode trying to find their way. Where has kindness, compassion, and the willingness to reach out and help others gone?

When a person becomes weak, doesn’t respond or light up as you expect, or when they are in a dark place, do you cast them aside? Of course not. Like my flashlight, you help them change their batteries and recharge back to themselves! 

Some need AA: attention and affection.

Some need AAA: appreciation, acknowledgement, and acceptance.

Some need C: compassion.

Some need D: direction, or all of the above.

Regardless of what they need, or if their light is dim or not shining, sit with them quietly and let your light shine. There is no darkness so dense, so menacing, or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light. Stay with them and be their light. You can be their best friend during dark times!

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