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Frankly Phyllis


Last month a house in Fulton, Tenn. burned to the ground while firefighters stood beside their equipment, watching. The reason for their paralysis? The owners had not paid the $75 fee for service outside the city limits. They stood there and watched -- as did the owner -- who had his garden hose on full blast, unable to contain the blaze. The firemen did, however, respond to the neighbor when flames threatened his home. Fortunately, he had paid the $75.

I know. Fair is fair. You play by the rules. You get what you pay for. But where is the mercy? Where were decency and kindness when the owner stood there and begged the trained firefighters to "do something to save my house; I'll pay whatever it takes"?

I'm not telling the children. They want to be firefighters when they grow up. They love firefighters and gleefully hop up into their trucks and cheer when they go by. Pictures of heroic firefighters are burned in my brain from watching 9-11 rescue attempts, where some gave their very lives.

Sadly, we read about people walking past a mugging -- or worse -- and not stopping, where bystanders do nothing. But firefighters? C'mon? ! They stand for rescue, for risk, for, if you will, even redemption, when there's even the slightest chance something might be salvaged from going up in smoke. I can only imagine the angst they must have felt when, obeying the command of their superiors, they watched an entire home -- a lifetime of one family's belongings and memories -- get destroyed in a blaze they could have helped put out.

It begs the question, "From whom do I take my orders?" What about you? We're all summoned into rescue of one sort or another. We each have skills and abilities that when applied help the human race function more smoothly. What about the adage "Love your neighbor as yourself"? A case in point: polite kindness has prevailed for 25 years when our neighbor, a medical doctor, freely shares his expertise with us, while my husband, an attorney, shares his with them. That kindness extends to pitching in on yard and house projects, too.

That kind of thing happens all over the globe. It's simply being kind to one another, out of compassion for a need, not a formal arrangement. Obviously, a doctor can't open up his surgical table to anyone who stands in line, or a judge rule on cases that walk in unannounced. Let's just talk niceties here, especially in deteriorating situations. We can anticipate another person's dilemma or at least react to help out, instead of watching it go up in flames. The opportunities are countless. Whether it's a person without enough change to pay the bill, or a friend who can't pick up her child after school, or an elderly person who would welcome a visit or getting her leaves raked this week ... we can pitch in. Are we letting kindness get ruled by laws, when life and property are at stake?

After the firefighter incident, I'm monitoring my reactions to the needs of others more intentionally. I recently drove past a roaring blaze on the edge of a town I was visiting. I was startled until my driver said, "That's where the firefighters practice putting out fires." In Fulton, could they have at least put out the real house fire and called it a "practice run"? Or will they go to a fake fire next week to practice? Will I practice kindness on a daily basis, to reflect the rescue God offers us 24-7, through our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ? When I wipe a tear, speak encouragement, or chat with a homeless person, I'm the work gloves on God's hands.

When Christ did the real work on the cross, He didn't ask first if we'd paid up for coverage. We can't pay for the forgiveness and eternal life He won for us. It's out of thankfulness to Him that we respond by loving our neighbor as ourselves. This Thanksgiving let's thank God for equipping us to get off the sidelines and respond with kindness. And by the way, we also thank Him for forgiving us when we don't. The firefighters in Fulton can receive that pardon and do better next time and, frankly, so can we.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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