Where there’s smoke, there’s a legacy.

My family had a conversation recently about the amount of firefighters in town. Apparently there’s a shortage of volunteers. I could look this up to verify that but it isn’t relevant to this post. That’s the way the conversation went. Anyway, they were lamenting the fact (as they knew it) that people weren’t volunteering. This went led to a general comment of the decline of civic responsibility. I piped in as a joke to say that they weren’t pressuring me into joining our local fire department. Their reactionary silence disturbed me a little. I know the joke wasn’t that funny but it felt like they really were thinking that I should. But nobody said that out loud. My father did bring up the fact that both his father and he were on the York fire department, suggesting that there’s a legacy in place that I’m disrupting.

Before I address that I should say that I actually did toy with the idea of trying to join the fire department a few years ago. Ultimately I decided against it because at the time my work schedule prevented me from being able to respond to any emergencies. Even now, as I work one job but try to live a life outside of it, I don’t feel like I would be able to respond. Plus, I have a have a bad tendency to hesitate and second-guess myself in an emergency so even with the best of training I don’t know how well I’d do. I’m willing to donate money to the fire department if they have a fund-raiser but as far as donating my service is concerned, I’m not available these days.

It should be no surprise to regular readers that the thought of fulfilling some sort of legacy means nothing to me intellectually. I know that it should have no bearing on my decision to join an organization. Yet I would be lying if that wasn’t a motivating factor in me considering signing up. That, and it’s one of the few government-run services that I can actually stand behind. But what about the fact that I don’t want children? If I know for sure that the “legacy” is going to die with me anyway, I don’t have any real incentive to go along with the idea.

Even though I don’t care about legacies this one in particular isn’t necessarily a bad one to take part in. I may have personal reasons for not being a firefighter but I can’t say that the distinction of being from a line of firefighters isn’t appealing in a way. There’s an odd paradox about being in a certain kind of group setting somebody apart from everybody else. However, I would then have to be part of a larger organization that has a sort of “brotherhood” aspect about it which I don’t find appealing. I don’t mind civic responsibility but to use a cliché, I’m not a joiner.

It’s the first time in thirty-three years that my father ever brought up to me the idea of continuing the chain of firefighters in the family. I don’t know if he actually was serious. If he really felt that way, why didn’t he say something before? I wouldn’t mind having the discussion with him. I would still say no for the reasons I gave above. But how important is the sense of tradition to him? I don’t get the overall feeling that he’s passing on a lot of rituals and so forth to me. I know that’s a loaded statement as I’m sure there are a lot of subtleties that I’m overlooking. But I honestly don’t see much of anything other than firefighting that he could pass on to me. Is that all he could think of as well?


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