Three decades is a long time for one man to give of his free time - especially when it’s being done for others in the community.
Following 30 years of unselfish service, a West Lothian volunteer firefighter recently decided that it was time for him to hang up his tunic and spend a bit more time with his family.
You see, until that time he has been almost constantly on call. Family gatherings, birthday celebrations, time with his wife and children – all lost. Never to be reclaimed.
And that’s only part of his story. Weeks that could have been spent on holiday were often spent on training. He gave his free time, his knowledge and his expertise; called out at inconvenient times of day and night to help others who were in life-threatening trouble.
On innumerable occasions, people were fleeing a house or factory fire and this chap was running towards it. What courage must THAT take?
Will he be honoured by Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service? No. Will his name join those of politicians, showbiz personalities and sportsmen in the New Years Honours List? No.
I know the commitment of this man because, for a long time, he was my sub officer.
So I was honoured to be present when his colleagues had their farewell get-together. His presence in the front of the fire engine as it roars off to God-knows-what emergency will be sorely missed.
I’m not going to name the chap – in his own words, he was “just part of a team”. And there are individuals just like him in every town in West Lothian. Invisible heroes.
But the next time you see somebody dashing to their car at some ungodly hour of the night and you see their wife and kids standing silhouetted in the doorway as he races off to the fire Sstation, take time to give thanks.
Pause to appreciate that there are selfless people out there willing to put their lives on the line to pluck you to safety in times of peril.
Sadly, even after 30 years, that is the only recognition they will get.