It’s a Sunday morning at the fire station, the second half of a 48. Everyone is a bit groggy. We had a busy night but the person who is calling 911 right now doesn’t even think about that. They are experiencing an emergency and turn to us to solve their problem. They turn to us for help and we respond. Every day thousands of us put our personal problems, wants and desires, on hold and we respond to the tone. We put on our “game face” and walk with confidence and certainty, often bringing a sense of calm and comfort to a chaotic and uncomfortable situation. They need to believe that we have the answer. There is no 911 for us. We are 911.
When we enter their lives with a simple —sometimes implied — question “what can we do for you today?” They know that somebody, anybody, is interested in only one thing at that moment — serving them. Most of us, unfortunately, do not experience that often enough. When was the last time you felt like someone in your life had only one thing to do right now, to BE with you? When was the last time you gave someone important to you in your personal life, that gift?
I have a theory that this “one thing,” this “gift” we give our customers on a regular basis, is the one thing that we forget to give the people we love the most. And, I believe it is the one thing they crave the most from us. Whether it is our spouse or our kids, our girlfriend or boyfriend, it doesn’t matter. The people who support us at home are craving this one thing from us, PRESENCE. Being present with them, having a single focus in that moment, to understand and really hear their answer to the question “what can I do for you today?” I think we — I know I have — forgotten to take that home with me. Sometimes, after a night like last night, the last thing I want to do is ask that question when I go home. The funny thing is, the people at home are the ones who deserve to be asked this most often. Without them what would our lives be? I know my wife and my kids fill me up more than anything else in the world.
Here is the irony of it all, at home, when we want to ask “What can I do for you?,” the absolute least, when we feel like we have nothing left to give, that is when our intimate partners need to hear it the most. They watch us “lay it on the line,” run all night and silently offer to make “the ultimate sacrifice” every time we go and do what we do. And what is the question they often unconsciously ask of themselves “what’s left for me?” or “ am I as important to them as that stranger?” Now, most of the time they don’t even know they are asking the question. But — now pay attention — anytime an intimate partner feels like they are less than #1 to us, our relationship is in jeopardy. If we are not making them #1 when we return from our “mission”, if they are not feeling us asking the question as it pertains to them “What can I do for you my love?” and they are not feeling us being 100% willing to “do whatever it takes” for them (where they witness us having that willingness with strangers) the relationship is weakened. A little tiny resentment is born and that little resentment, fed over and over, continues to grow and grow until one day, we are getting divorced, or one of us steps outside the relationship to meet the need of feeling like we matter, that we really matter to someone, anyone.
So going forward home tomorrow, I will strive to remind myself to ask the question at least one more time, “What can I do for you, today?” and I will listen with total PRESENCE to the answer as it comes back from the ones I love. Will you do the same when you go home? Will you commit to training and conditioning this skill with the same level of attention to detail with which you train on your tools at the job? I believe our intimate relationships are as vital to a life of fulfillment as our SCBA is in a fire. At the department we condition our minds to respond with purposeful action without even thinking about it. What would happen if we conditioned our minds to ask better questions in our relationships? What if our questions were to find out how to top off their need to feel #1 so that, if we do not come home, there is no possibility of doubt in them that they were in fact the most important person in our lives. Wouldn’t that be the memory you would want them to have?
It has been my intention to never leave to work without telling my wife, in a way she will feel, that I Love her. Sometimes, it looks like sneaking out of the bedroom as quietly as possible, so she can hopefully get a few more minutes of sleep; sometimes it is putting toothpaste on her toothbrush and sometimes it is letting a phone call go to voicemail when I am talking with her. The point being, we must get curious with them, in our “daily check,” when things are good, to find out what they need us to do or say, in order to feel loved. What are their rules? What has to happen in order for them to feel loved by us. Then we need to take action and condition it so that we automatically strive to do or say the things which mean, “You’re #1 my Love” everyday.
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