This week our community has been overwhelmed with joy at the success of the Kansas City Royals. But we've also been shocked back to reality by the tragic deaths of two Kansas City firefighters. The morning after the tragedy, I wrote this post for Facebook, and I thought I'd share it here as well.
My thoughts and prayers this morning are with the men and women of the Kansas City Fire Department as they grieve the loss of two colleagues and friends.
I've done no research into the characteristics and traits of heroes. The stories I've read, however, almost universally suggest the amazing normalcy of folks who do incredibly abnormal things. Ask a hero about the moment of their great heroism, and they'll likely say, "I just did what I had to do." That's why we hear stories about heroes of all shapes, sizes, physical abilities and limitations, and backgrounds.
First Responders, however, tell a slightly different story. No less normal. No more superhuman. But these are folks who accept the responsibilities of their profession knowing that their job might require their heroism, like an unspoken debt, waiting to be paid. Unlike most debts, however, there is no advance notice of payment due. Including the ultimate payment.
I suppose there are first responders who blink. I'm certain there are a few who, after days or years of service, say, "I really need to stop doing this." I'm guessing there are even one or two stories out there of first responders who failed at the moment when they were needed the most to offer their heroism. And of course there are stories of those who dishonor the professions in which they serve in the ways they treat others. But these exceptions are overpowered by the extraordinary rule: when the call goes out, first responders walk in. This is their calling.
For those who follow Jesus Christ, the Christ story is the story of God, seeing the incredible need of the world through the eyes of love, and emptying himself into the form of a servant, Jesus. (Philippians 2) While first responders are of all different faiths, or none at all, in so many different ways their calling is a reflection of the Christ story. In the face of evil, suffering, pain, or disaster, they ask, "Where am I needed?" And they respond.
This morning our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to the families, friends, and colleagues of Larry Leggio and John Mesh. May they have peace and comfort, and may they be surrounded by the love and support of a grateful community.
In addition, may we, the members of that community, be inspired by the example of those who so nobly serve and sacrifice. Our calling may be different, and may present a much lower risk of danger to life and limb. But in so many ways, each one of us also has the opportunity to respond to those around us. We might start by being grateful. Or by listening. We might offer forgiveness, or an apology. We might use a skill to address a need, or take some time for a neighbor. We might take a step to cross a boundary that has divided us from someone we label as "different."
In such ways, small and insignificant as they might appear, we go beyond mere words to honor our heroes. May it be so.