How fire, EMS saved me from myself
I probably would have muddled through this existence had I not been fortunate enough to do well on the fire department entrance exams
By Michael Morse
He told me I was a "burnout" when he recognized me from all of those years ago.
Burnout was a term we used to use to describe kids like me: the sweet aroma of marijuana smoke seemingly permanently attached to our skin, Visine in our top pockets, keg parties in the woods on the weekends, straight "D' student, no plans for the future, no worries about the present, and a blurred memory of the past.
But that was the past.
We loaded him onto our stretcher. His considerable size had turned from high school muscle to middle-aged fat. The glory days were behind him; no more football games, no more ridiculing people who weren't like him, no more much of anything. The other residents of the homeless shelter watched us take him away. There were no goodbyes, no get-well-soons. He was just another drunk being taken away.
I used to worry about my past catching up with me, and being exposed as not quite the person I appear to be. Then I realized that I am exactly the person I appear to be. The "burnout" was just a high school kid getting by the best he could.
I used to look at people in uniform and avoid them. I never considered that someday I would be one of them. I guess my old friend from high school never considered it either. I guarantee he never thought he would be homeless and looking up at me from the stretcher I put him in.
I guess you could say that the fire service started the process of saving me from myself and EMS finished the job.
I probably would have muddled through this existence had I not been fortunate enough to do well on the fire department entrance exams, stayed in decent shape, and made the effort to get through the application process. Muddling is okay, I suppose, but every day that I put on the uniform I remind myself that my days of being just “okay” were over, and “muddling” had no place in the life that I had made for myself.
I'm just glad that life has taught me that the only time to look down at somebody is when you are helping them up. It doesn't matter who you were, it's who you are that matters.