Recent surveys show that out of 130 developed or developing countries, the United States ranks 1st in generosity. According to the World Giving Index 2013 in any given month the percentage of people in America who gave money, volunteered or assisted a stranger was 61%.
As a country and as a Department we have a strong tradition of giving. Recently we had Hope For Firefighter’s, we have blood drives, golf, softball, over-the-line and bowling tournaments, there’s bike rides, some shave their head for cancer, we fill the fire extinguisher and we also “Fill the Boot,” we also have our very own surf classic! So many events and with such frequency I can’t mention them all in one writing. I’m so thankful to be part of an organization known for its generous giving.
In a chaplain’s column the obvious connection here would be to the words of Jesus that it is better to give than to receive. Other scripture texts urge us to consider others more important than ourselves, even to the extreme of placing the needs of others before our own. I’ve seen many of our members, both active and retired, doing this frequently. For many first responders the act of giving is simply a way of life, it’s as natural as breathing.
My hope is that the motive connected to our generosity stems from a true love for God. Hopefully our loving, serving, giving and living is a willing response to God’s generous love for us. Since He sacrificed His one and only Son for us, it’s logical that we would in turn present our lives back to Him as an act of worship.
Sacrifice – now there’s a good word. For me the constant challenge in my giving and serving is the challenge to give enough of my time, treasure or talent to the point that it hurts. I’m not into pain, but I’ve recognized that I often give only what or when it’s convenient. It’s called stale giving; I give “left overs.” Again, the example of God in Christ is not only one of generosity, but of an extremely generous sacrifice. I want to give God my very best in return for what He’s already given me – not to earn His love, but because I have already received His love.
I want to be clear that in the context of this particular column when I use the word “give” that I am using it primarily to refer to time and talent, not money – this isn’t about money. Please read on and you’ll see what I mean.
Deep within our tradition of giving is one type we call “giving back.” This tradition has a distinct meaning. Quite often this refers to giving back to the fire department family. The recent Rookie Class 2013, one in keeping with tradition, came together and purchased a paver for our own – now their own – Memorial Plaza. Good job guys and welcome to the family. This is an example of choosing to lend financial support to an organization which in turn strengthens our own fire family.
Under the category of sacrifice and giving back I wanted to mention a potential, almost certain staffing crisis – not what you think. What I wanted to highlight and sound the alarm for is our pressing need for several key volunteer positions. Did you know that right now there’s a growing need to shore up volunteer ranks within our service organizations? Rather than run the risk of overlooking one of our key institutions I will speak mostly in broad terms. I’d ask you to take a look around, to consider how you might sacrifice some of your time and talent to come along side some of our current volunteers, especially those senior members who have been giving and giving for many years.
Consider the Relief Association, Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund. How about the LAFD Historical Society with the Hollywood and Harbor Museums and Ralph J. Scott restoration project. There’s also the Los Angeles Retired Fire & Police Association. These are just three of the few key agencies staffed largely, if not exclusively. by volunteers.
After many years of gifted, sacrificial service, aka leadership, we are nearing a crisis. For some time, the same small groups of volunteers have kept certain key ships afloat for us. Those with experience deserve and need a lighter load, a breather and the peace of mind knowing that others have stepped up to share the task, are trained up and thus able to carry us in to whatever future the Good Lord gives us. I’ve been told that in history there’s a pattern; what one generation fights for, the next generation tends to protect, appreciate and enjoy. By the time the third generation is born, they grow up assuming that the standard of living they enjoy is a right, as opposed to a privilege. In the midst of complacency and ingratitude the inevitable outcome is most often at least an eroding of, if not a complete loss of that benefit.
So here we are. We are largely that third, even fourth generation. Ready or not it’s my turn and it’s your turn to step up.
Every day the public benefits from the professional service you provide. I am hoping that soon several of you will acknowledge the need within our own family and step up and take ownership through service – it’s the right thing to do. That’s what I’m hoping for and that’s what I’m praying for. It would be a shame to forfeit what so many others for so many years fought to gain.
I’m appealing to another generation for help!?
It’s your turn.
As we join together to make it better, may the Lord bless our every step!
By Chaplain George Negrete