What they are, what they are not, and where we need to go.
The patch represents competence, not excellence.
Line up a dozen first responders with the same patch on their shoulders and we can declare all of them competent. They passed the course and then the tests and then they were awarded the patch. Competence, check mark.
Excellence is another level.
Excellence is the compound made of refined practices and effective human principles.
It is knowing both how to do things right and when to do the right thing. It begins inside of us, in our values and it takes form in the world, through our actions.
Excellence is the step by step realization of our own potential as both responders and useful humans in a community. Excellence is the property outside of our comfort zones.
Never stop improving. Never stop learning. Never stop reaching.
The badge doesn’t speak for us, our actions do.
Patches and badges do not embody courage or integrity- our decisions and our actions do. Everyday, every call, every moment in front of another person is that very unique opportunity that this profession affords us - the chance to leave things better than we found them. The chance to make a positive impact on another’s life. Regardless of the uniform or the vehicle we arrive, it is our deeds that will make the difference.
Commit to never missing that chance.
The badge is bestowed authority, not leadership.
Quite honestly, a given rank does not equate to the ability to lead. True leadership is not a position that is attained, rather, it is a service that is given.
Leaders inspire and elevate others, they highlight the cause and they take down barriers to allow others to improve themselves. Leadership is not permission to do less, it is a heavy responsibility to do more.
Having trouble finding leaders around you? Step up, set examples in your work, challenge yourself and your fellow responders. Teach with full respect, listen with deep intent and humbly lead from the middle.
The job marks out the tasks, not the mission.
The mission is to bring the best of humanity to the worst of conditions. This is not easy on any given day. That is why first response is a calling, not a career. This work requires accountability to our neighbors and a commitment to prepare, respond without bias and always be improving.
Fact - better people make better responders. We need to strive to be the responder we would want answering the call of our own family’s emergency.
The patch represents legacy, not completion.
Quite simply, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Those before us blazed trails, they discovered, they made a difference, they made mistakes, adapted and pushed forward. When we put on the patch, we are taking our place on this progress path. We now have a duty to move forward, over, around and right through the obstacles and the adversity.
To note, I was very careful to not use the word ‘tradition’ where I used the word legacy, as traditions are often just an excuse for reactions without thought.
Our profession, for sure, benefits from protocols and standardization. But, we must balance this with a strong situational awareness to the effectiveness of our practices. What is working and what is not? To move forward, we need to observe, assess and adapt. We need to listen to thought, debate with reason and make impactful decisions with all of the information.
What about our principles? To move forward we need to regularly take out our convictions, and vigorously shake them down to look for unhealthy biases, prejudices and assumptions. “The way we have always done things” doesn’t fly here, when lives are on the line and there is a better process awaiting discovery. There simply are no absolutes.
All of this leads to one patch, emblematic of a much larger group that faces challenges together, grows through just struggle and rallies to answer the call of those in need.
This patch does not assume leadership, but rather, inspires us to step forward.
This patch does not symbolize perfection or completion, but rather a state of constant evolution. This patch does not pretend to have a perfect legacy, but it does provide a powerful glimpse of what is possible.
This patch represents the encompassing first responder values of purpose, integrity and courage.
This patch represents service. This patch represents opportunity.
This patch, when it is all said and done, unites us as a profession and as the community we serve.
This patch was made possible by unmeasurable sacrifice.
We should work to earn this particular patch, in and out of uniform, everyday.
Stay safe everyone and do amazing things.