Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reaffirming Work

I've always had an appreciation for those who work. Real physical labor seems like one of the most honest forms of work, and I commend those who thrive in this kind of work. Recently, I took a Wildland Firefighting course, where in my state I was certified to fight wildfires. Cool, right?

The drill was this - when the XX State forest service truck trundled onto campus and blew the air raid siren on top of the cafeteria, any College X students who were certified could come running, hop into the truck, and go fight a fire.

I honestly thought I would never answer the call.

Yesterday, my school had a "Work Day" that is highly anticipated among the community. All students take a morning at their work crews, and then spend the entire afternoon working communally on projects around campus. Afterwards, they share a barbecue together.

The air raid siren went off at 11:00 a.m. I knew if I went, I would miss the event, the camaraderie, and the really good food.

I ran as fast as I could back to my dorm to get my gear, and I had a wonderful time. The firefighters I was with were some of the most amazing - and funny - people I have had the honor of working with. I worked for thirteen hours straight on two consecutive fires, one in the mountains, one right on the side of a highway. My legs ached, my lungs burned, my eyes watered, and my stomach grumbled, but I always had a smile on my face.

My mother always said that we regret the things we do not do. She's right. I regretted missing the group picture and the laughing joy of school labor, but I got to experience real-life stakes - homes, lives, and the possibility of an exploding propane tank (slightly scary to imagine, but it never happened). I got to feel like an adult, and be thanked repeatedly by people who I had never met (also a strange experience).

I was never directly cutting fire lines to keep a fire at bay, but it still mattered, and I knew it. I may have missed the cute, meaningful work that was done around campus, but I got an amazing life experience that I get to repeat over and over as long as I keep answering the siren.

And guess whose story sounded a whole lot cooler when students were exchanging stories about their work yesterday?