Volunteers Part Three

Submitted by: Murray Pound

Small towns make for an interesting place to grow up. As an adult, most people still remember you as the little pudgy kid that used to deliver newspapers, or come door to door in the spring looking for donations to the Cubs bottle drive to pay for summer camp. Many of the people I knew as a child still remain in Carstairs. We have all gotten older, and those long relationships have either drifted away or spread into new beginnings. All the while there remains this vital link to the community that grows stronger and deeper as the years fold upon the next.

Everyone in a small town has a role to play. This was especially noticeable before people started commuting to Calgary. Most people then worked and lived in our town, so you came to know each by their profession. I remember looking upon one of my classmates’ father in reverence as a child. Teddy’s dad was the Fire Chief. I thought that was the coolest thing imaginable to become. On hot spring days the teacher’s would open all the classroom windows in an attempt to cool the rooms. When the Fire department were called out west for a grass fire or other emergency, they would pass the school with sirens screaming and red lights frantically pulsing. The sound would fill the classroom and often it seemed like they would come right through the wall and pass between our desks en-route to their destination The kids would run over to the window and some of us would dream of being on that truck with Teddy’s Dad leading us on to some terrifically heroic journey.

I think all people have a child in there somewhere that wanted to be a Fireman, a Medic or a Police Officer. Each of us wondering how they can run off and do what is necessary. I think that is why the average Joe holds out so much reverence for his/her fellow neighbour when they become a volunteer firefighter. A Fire truck responding to a typical call may have a crew comprised of a Farmer an Engineer, a Plumber and a new Mom returning from a leave of absence. In our street clothes there is no apparent difference, and yet there is something inside that makes the difference. This is what we all hope for; that the average Joe can screw up the courage to be something great. Perhaps in a small way it gives us all hope for humanity. Sometimes fate conspires and pushes us towards an event that offers us the opportunity to prove our worth to our neighbours.

Once in a while fate and the proper training can combine to allow you to be part of a wonderful event. I will tell you one of the proudest moment of my life. A couple of years back as I was mid way through a pile of paperwork or e-mails on a mid week day. From my office I can hear my receptionist picking up the phone after it rings a couple of times. She answers in her normal way, but by the urgent tone of her voice it is apparent that this is not the average call. I pick it up to listen to one of our local business owner’s wives as she describes her husband’s condition. She is concerned that he is not feeling well, and asks if it would be too much trouble for me to stop by. Usually, most people would call 911 and get an Ambulance there as soon as possible. She knows that because I work in town, I am often around. Knowing that her husband is a very humble man, he probably thinks that it is nothing and the trouble would not be necessary. I tell her I don’t mind and that I’m on my way.

The drive down to his shop is only a couple blocks north on Main Street (10th avenue). As I pull up, the wife meets me at the door. I am ushered in the office to find what is normally a very healthly and active man, sitting loosely on a chair in his shop foyer. He is pale, weak, diaphoretic and his pulse does not feel right. I know that without proper medical care, my limited medical training will not be of much use. He says he just feels tired but my gut feeling is that his condition is about to get worse. I convince him that a quick radio call to our dispatcher will get an Ambulance here, and the family (two of his children are there as well) agree that this would be best. Luckily, an EMS supervisor happens to be a few minutes away and soon after his arrival our humble friend is diagnosed with what appears to be the onset of a heart attack. He is rushed to Calgary in an ambulance, and like many calls for me, this is normally the end of it. The person`s future is out of my hands, and seldom do you learn of the outcome. In this case, his son drops by my office the next day to tell me that his Dad is recovering in hospital after having a couple of stints implanted during a surgery the night before. The overall impression from this event is oddly quaint. It just proves that in a small town, you still ask your neighbours for help.

A couple of months pass and I find myself lunching on Chinese food with some co-workers and I spot our humble friend eating a few tables away. He looks much better than the last time I saw him. Passing by our table to pay his bill with the cashier, he turns toward me, extends his right hand, shakes mine, and simply says `thanks`. That`s it, nothing more. No one else at the table knows what this is all about, just he and I… and that`s okay. I have known this man for most of my life and he is still here, working at his shop, being a Father and a Husband and eating Chinese food from time to time in our small town corner restaurant. That is the best payment a volunteer can receive.

ps: My first and second proudest moments were the births of my daughters.

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