Relationships: A Rhetorical Essay

Robert Beattie

October 21, 2022

RELATIONSHIPS: re·la·tion·ships / rəˈlāSH(ə)nˌSHips
The way in which two or more people, concepts, or objects are connected.

People have many relationships to maintain, like family and friends, social and professional. In addition, we maintain relationships with our hobbies, favorite sports teams, and even our own health and wellness.

Relationships require maintenance. If neglected, they will wither and weaken.

Have you given much thought to your relationships? Relationships are tricky, especially in the fire service. The schedule, the workload, the dynamics of the different personalities in the station, and the contrast of priorities. Is it always easy? No, it is seldom easy.

Being in a relationship is complicated. Love, courage, compromise, humility, compassion, and advocacy are only some components. At any time, one piece of this complex puzzle will be weak. Yet, at the same time, another is strong, a dynamic that will often shift and is usually situational.

These things cannot always be one-sided. Each dynamic should support and complement the other throughout. The challenge is finding a balance to keep the relationship healthy. This work that goes into it builds value, strengthens bonds, and promotes mutual growth.

How is your relationship with the fire service? Are you committed to the job?

Remaining open-minded about learning and trying new things while maintaining and improving basic skills is a start. Attending formal training and absorbing as much as possible and, in turn, teaching it is a means of giving back and making an investment in the future of the profession.

We must respect different opinions. While we don’t always have to agree on everything, you and the fire service will always have more in common than not.

You will make mistakes. Some mistakes must be made; it is an inevitable part of the learning process. Unfortunately, when you make a mistake, it will seem easy to blame the fire service, the culture, the past, or the tools.

But as in any relationship, we must own our mistakes. We must forgive the fire service in order to be forgiven ourselves. Both sides grow from this experience.

You will have to become a source of support and reassurance for others when they make mistakes. Because when it was us, the fire service set us straight. It kept us moving forward.

The fire service hasn’t always gotten it right.

Do you have the courage to confront and challenge the status quo? Our history is highlighted by formal and informal leaders who have recognized a need for change and unapologetically pursued it.

Try standing with the “minority” when it is the right thing to do, even when it is unpopular, for the best possible future of the relationship. Then, withhold judgment. Seek to be informed and reach your own conclusions.

The fire service is not immune from stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions. There will always be those who may be less aware, misinformed, or have had an unfortunate personal experience. Nevertheless, we must stand with the fire service when it is under attack and endure the challenges posed by outside influences trying to divide us.

The core mission of the fire service shall and must endure - protecting life and property with honor, courage, and bravery. This is a commonality and should be a source of strength and comfort. Consider it our foundation on which everything else is built.

In your relationship with the fire service, you will have an opportunity to influence others. This comes with responsibility and will undoubtedly require energy on your part. However, this energy must be applied constructively, advancing on the objective.

And don’t forget that others are watching!

The public, the bosses, your peers, and those who wish to join our ranks. What makes you a professional is not compensation. Rather it is how you go about doing your work. Preparation, competency, proficiency. Seeking to ever-improve those attributes is an excellent way to spend your energy, and it will positively influence others. You will find yourself in a place where you will influence positive change and strengthen your relationship with the fire service.

Too many of our members are taken too soon by known or unknown threats. Whether fire, collapse, heart disease, cancer, or mental illness, for the sake of the fire service and everything it stands for, you cannot shy away. Why do we feel every loss and near-miss on such a deeply personal level? It must be because we can relate to the circumstances, the members, the families, and the coworkers.

It is never a stretch to see yourself in that situation, recall a similar experience, or even be haunted by a memory. In these times, we may feel betrayed in our relationship with the fire service or let down by our chosen path. Yet, the fire service responds with strength when we are vulnerable in this space. Vivid and obvious signs of solidarity embrace and supports us in honoring our fallen and carrying the survivors. We never have to look too far for support, an ear to listen, or a shoulder to lean on.

The fire service provides an opportunity to learn and practice a trade.

Our investments in this trade will reward and fulfill us and put us in a position to help others. Your relationship with the fire service provides excitement and the chance to experience an adrenaline rush while confronting danger in a meaningful way. The tangible reward is the pride we feel when the time and energy spent learning and practicing results in a successful operation and the best possible outcome in an emergency. That reward is ours for the taking if we’re fully invested in the relationship.

The fire service is not perfect, and neither is any one of us. So accept the fire service with its flaws while unapologetically working to improve it. It will do the same for you. While the fire service is larger than any of us individually, it is, in fact, each of us.

Stay safe.

Robert Beattie is a second-generation North Plainfield, NJ firefighter joining in 1991 as a volunteer "callman" and spending the last 23 years on the career force. He is a New Jersey certified fire officer, fire official, level 2 fire instructor and emergency medical technician. Rob works as an instructor at the Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy in Hillsborough, NJ and was previously a Fire Inspector with the Howell Township Fire Bureau in Howell Township, Monmouth County, NJ.

A proud member of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2983 North Plainfield Fire Officers, Robert served 3 terms as 2nd District Vice President to the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey where he contributed to several committees and projects advocating for and protecting safe working conditions for all New Jersey firefighters.