Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Fire Fighters, a parable
Once upon a time, there was a town where house fires were rampant. It seemed like every week, someone's house or barn or outbuilding caught fire. There was pretty much no way to stop the fires, so the townspeople just watched the fires, hoping that their home wouldn't be next.
But one day, a fire fighter came to town. He explained fire-fighting techniques and how to use tools, water, fire extinguishers, and even smoke detectors to stop the devastation. As he taught, others became interested in fighting fires, and so the fire fighter trained them.
Soon there was a solid group of fire fighters. They were committed to fighting fires wherever they broke out in their town. Instead of weekly fires, it seemed like they would happen monthly, then less frequently, and shortly there were fewer and fewer fires. More and more of the townspeople became fire fighters.
In not much time, it seemed like almost everyone in town was a fire fighter.
The fire fighters would gather together every week to receive more training and to interact with each other. They would receive the latest training and encourage one another in fire fighting. As they gathered together, they realized that they would be better off if they had somewhere central to gather and to store their fire fighting equipment. So they pooled their money and built a fire station. Now they had one central place to gather.
But gradually something happened. While most of the townspeople were fire fighters, there were still some who were not. And the fire fighters began to resent those who were not. Why should we go there and risk our lives while all of those people have had every chance to become fire fighters? And so every once in a while, a house or barn would catch fire, and the fire fighters might not put it out, depending on whose house or barn it was.
Then, based on who was a fire fighter and who was not, there came to be parts of town where the fire fighters did not go.
Soon the fire fighters realized that they didn't know everything about fire fighting, but there was a fire fighting school nearby that trained fire chiefs, so they got together, pooled their money, and hired a fire chief. He would come to town and train the fire fighters so they could be more effective.
So every week, the chief would bring the town's fire fighters together to talk about fighting fire. The chief was a really good fire fighter, always in the forefront of any fire fighting efforts. As he taught other fire fighters how to fight the fires, they found out that his methods were different from theirs, and though they were more effective, they were often more difficult. Or perhaps it was just more difficult because they were not used to all of the new equipment.
Over the years, the fire fighters became comfortable in their new role. It was a rare occurrence when a fire fighter's house caught fire, but when (if) it did, the fire fighters were quick to respond (though there were some who grumbled that a fire fighter's house should never catch fire). Outside of the fire fighting community, there were more fires than ever, but they weren't in areas where the fire fighters ever went, so it did not bother them.
Weeks, then months, then years went by without a fire. Every week, the fire chief gathered the fire fighters together to talk about fighting fires, and once a year, the fire fighters had a big fire fighting outreach, where they invited anyone who needed a fire extinguished to come and learn about fire fighting. But in all truth, the fire fighters had not fought a real fire in years.
Then one day, the fire station caught fire and all of the fire fighters died.