“No gift is too small if given freely." ~ 2 Corinthians 8:12
On a typical hot, scorching day in Chicago, Ed walked through the firehouse door for the last time. His days as a firefighter had come to an end; one no smoke eater should ever have to experience. Not from injury, disease, or even failure, but cynicism. He’d gotten too old for this crap!
In the gear room that’d evoked 24 years of memories, he started clearing out his locker.
Since 911, firefighters had become the subject of a well-deserve public devotion. They’re depicted on magazine covers. Firefighter Halloween costumes frequently sold out. NYC Department stores even honor them in window displays.
But for Ed, ‘rightsizing,’ ‘resource adjustments,’ and politics had taken their toll. No matter what the label, it had the same demoralizing effect. The hardship of missing out on special events and an inability to make firm plans with friends and family bled a little life each time. Whether he’d ever admit it, PTSD hid just below his emotional crust.
As Ed packed the last of his personal items and stared back at an empty locker, the emergency alarm screamed to life. A small fire had broken out in a downtown apartment building. “Let’s do this one more time,” he thought, climbing into his gear.
By the time they arrived at the scene, the “small fire” engulfed the entire building. Residents had likely escaped the blazing inferno and gathered at a safe distance.
But they needed to make sure.
Ed and his partners entered the building clad in their fire-retardant gear, busting down doors and checking for any remaining tenants. When they saw no residents and heard no screams or sounds, they fled the building. All were safe and accounted for.
Ed found a spot and sat down heavily on the sidewalk. Only then did he realize the enormity of what’d just happened. Heat from the fire’s intensity left him parched and dehydrated, over-whelming his body's ability to cool itself.
A small, pink-slippered, child approached. Tightly braided hair revealed a thin layer of soot only broken by tear tracks. Ed patted the ground next to him and motioned for her to join him.
“You look thirsty,” she said in a small voice and offered him her water bottle. It was the freshest, coolest water Ed had ever tasted. Instantly, all seemed right with the universe.
Some gifts offer sparkling delights, lasting no longer than the bubbles in champagne. Others - a new tool, a wool sweater - provide pleasure for a season or two. More durable gifts, like jewelry, offer an endless reminder of friendship and love.
And then there are those rare gifts that alter the courses of our lives. Somehow he’d return his gear to his locker without anyone noticing his previous intentions.
Lord, grant me the energy to complete all that lies ahead today. Allow the spring of living waters to burst from me so that I can be a beacon in this punishing world. Help my thoughts, words and deeds reflect You daily. Amen