By Anne Gagliano
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words; this picture certainly is. It was in Seattle Fire’s calendar this year and, even more apropos, in the month of December—the month of children. As I gaze fondly at this adorable, heartwarming photo of little boys all dressed up in tiny fire gear watching real firefighters in action, I’m reminded of these words that I once had framed for my husband Mike with handprints of our own little boys, long ago:
There are little eyes upon you
and they’re watching night and day.
There are little ears that quickly
take in every word you say.
There are little hands all eager
to do anything you do;
And a little boy who’s dreaming
of the day he’ll be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol,
you’re the wisest of the wise.
In his little mind about you
no suspicions ever rise.
He believes in you devoutly,
holds all you say and do;
He will say and do, in your way
when he’s grown up just like you.
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow
who believes you’re always right;
and his eyes are always opened,
and he watches day and night.
You are setting an example
every day in all you do;
For the little boy who’s waiting
to grow up to be just like you.
‘Tis the season of children, when little eyes gaze at bountiful trees full of Christmas surprises–and Santa. They wait anxiously for the arrival of Santa, the heroic generous figure who brings special delight. Santa is also known as St. Nicholas—who was, in fact, a real person. The real St. Nicholas was raised to be a devout Christian in a time when Christians were vehemently persecuted by the Roman emperor Diocletian. So full of Christians were Diocletian’s horrific prisons that there was no room for the actual criminals. The murderers and rapists roamed free while Christians, including St. Nick himself, languished in jail cells for their convictions.
Undeterred, when Nicholas was freed he continued right on sharing his faith and his wealth (yes, his family was rich) with the poor, sick, and needy till the day he died—which was in December, by the way. And yes, St. Nicholas was especially well known for his considerable compassion for children, which was unusual then, as children were typically ignored. His Christian faith told him to “let the little children come to me,” and this he conveyed as he spread his faith. December 6 came to be celebrated as St. Nicholas day, and combined with the celebration of the birth of Christ and the child-inclusive gospel, December eventually became the Christmas month we celebrate today. St. Nicholas was real but became legendary because of his outstanding good deeds. Kind of reminds me of someone else just as prolific in good deeds—you, firefighter.
Little eyes are upon you, too. Your arrival is just as highly anticipated, as you fly on your giant shiny red vehicle covered with magical buttons, dials, and ladders. You, too, climb onto roofs and stomp about, looking for access to deliver your gifts. Your jolly laughter can be heard as you mingle with your crew, finding gallant humor and levity amid terror. Your mighty presence brings hope, brings joy, brings comfort to those who need it. When a firefighter shows up, then it was chaos—now, all is calm, all is bright. ‘Tis very like Christmas itself.
The gifts you bring are special, indeed. You bring water to squelch fire. You bring air to counter smoke. You bring tools to save homes. You bring strength and skill to preserve life. Often your rigs carry toys and candy and stuffed animals to comfort the little ones when they are afraid; your particular compassion for them is well known. All that you have you give; you share the wealth of your knowledge with the community and the depth of your experience with your young followers, all the days of your lives.
Do not be deterred by the forces that rage against you, trying to impede your good deeds. Politics, bad leaders, budgets, fatigue. Do not grow weary; keep on doing what you do. Little eyes are upon you; you are setting an example every day in all you do; For the little boy who’s waiting to grow up to be just like you. And let’s pray that they do grow up to be just like you, that the next generation will carry on your magnificent traditions of generosity, honor, and courage. Where would we be without you?
As an anonymous military leader once said: “Dear God, where do we get such men? What loving God has provided, that each generation, afresh, there should arise new giants in the land. Were we to go a single generation without such men, we should surely be both damned and doomed.”
Where will the next generation get such men and women? They are right here, right now, watching you.
Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 31 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.