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State Fire Marshal

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

What's your story II: When the people you help help you

By John Ehret
State Services and Education Supervisor

While working a fire assignment in northern Idaho, I see my professional life evolving and growing. As I shared a few months ago, successful people don't make it to our positions without the help of others who believe in us as individuals and professionals. I challenged each of you to look for an opportunity find a person to mentor or support – or to simply listen to that person. 

As I write this, it's late at night in the command post on an active fire. The smell of smoke is in the air, I'm tired, but I'm taking my own advice. I want to share an experience with a new friend named Dale. For me, Dale became the face of the community we're serving: He wears cowboy boots and hat and has that friendly, weathered face of experience. He is a true gentleman. Dale asked, “Can we talk?" “Of course," I replied, “Yes." (I thought, “Oh, boy, here we go!) He said, “People like you come and go. They do great work, and we never really get a chance to say thank you, and thank you doesn't seem enough." It was at this point the weathered cowboy had tears welling in his eyes, as did I.

As a rancher, Dale worked to fight the raging fire as best he could and was successfully saved his home. I also heard him say, “In a world of polarized viewpoints, we really do care about the time you and your people spend with us." Interestingly, this was not about me helping Dale; he was helping me become better and se​e life through a different lens. When you keep yourself open to others and ready to receive others' viewpoints, you just never know when something might trigger personal and professional growth.

As you undoubtedly are, I am sometimes faced with rough duty, but if I look at it as an opportunity to listen and learn, sometimes I'm able to put another tool in my toolbox from that rough-place experience. I was here to help, and found a man that helped guide me a rough place and time.

Once again, I challenge you to look for the good in people, look for opportunities to mentor or share a kind word. You have no idea what your impact may be.