Fire Engines: Beautiful Symbols of Unselfish Love

I like fire engines. For many reasons. First of all, I like their bright colors. Most fire engines are red, of course, but many are not red. Some are bright yellow, lime, orange, blue, dark green, black, white, and even purple. Whatever color fire engines are, they are bright.

red firetruck

I like fire engines because they are big. Park a car or even a pick-up truck next to one and it is dwarfed. Fire trucks have to be big because they carry not only a team of fire fighters to a fire, they also carry heavy equipment such as ladders, hooks, pike poles, axes, fire extinguishers, ventilating equipment, flood lights, hoses, fire fighting apparel, and self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA). In addition, some fire trucks have on-board water reservoirs.

purple fire truck

I like fire engines because they shine and sparkle and make a lot of noise. Their flashing lights and horns warn you that they are coming–and usually quite fast. Their sirens can make a variety of sounds from the traditional wail to the loud “yelp.” Most European fire engines use that distinctive “hi-low” siren.

But the main reason I like fire engines is this: They are beautiful symbols of  unselfish love.  They represent humanity at its best. They are pro-life in a dramatic way. Let me explain. Fire fighters devote their lives to helping other people–often total strangers. When a call comes, they drop everything and race to the emergency–whether it is a house on fire, a bomb explosion, a skyscraper ablaze, or a forest in flames. Once at the scene, they go about their work with consummate energy and skill. They never ask the people they are helping, “What will you give me if I help you?” They never ask, “Are you Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist?” Nor, “Whom did you vote for in the last election.” No, they just help–no questions asked. That’s unselfishness at its best.

fire fighters

Fire fighters remind us all just how precious human life is. They do this by putting themselves in harm’s way in an effort to protect and save life. When they get a call they don’t say, “Chances are, there aren’t any survivors, so we don’t have to rush.” No they give the benefit of the doubt to life and race to the scene. As long as life might be there, they go into action to preserve it. All rescue workers do this. Take the Coast Guard. These men and women venture out into terrible storms to rescue people at sea. Once again, they give life the benefit of the doubt, sometimes searching for days. This attitude speaks volumes to me about the sanctity of every human life.

I have been told by people who were raised in the city and attended Catholic schools, that as school children, every time a fire truck went by, the nuns or lay teachers taught them to make the sign of the cross and pray for the fire fighters and the people they were going to help. That’s a wonderful practice to continue even into adulthood. In fact, such prayer too is an act of unselfish love!

fire trucks heading to fire

What does the picture above say to you?

What other symbols of unselfish love do you see in our world today?

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  1. maureen on May 20, 2013 at 9:34 am

    This image brings me back to 911, the firefighters, police and all who worked so heroically to do what I would liked to have been able to do. Distance did not permit physical presence but the loving Lord granted spiritual presence through prayer.
    God bless them and thank you for this remembrance.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 20, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Dear Maureen, Yes, the image reminds me of 911 too when so many fire fighters marched toward those burning towers…We as a nation owe them so much! Thank you for responding so beautifully! Sr. Melannie

  2. Betty Nagel on May 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Hi, Melannie!
    My son is a fire fighter. When he was in the Army after high school, he decided that he wanted to serve with the police or fire department because he wanted to help people, just as you say. Your reflection goes even deeper than that. Thank you, Melannie, for this wonderful reflection. ~ Betty

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Dear Betty, Congratulations on being the mother of a fire fighter. I bet much of his desire to help people was nurtured by you! Thanks for writing! Melannie

  3. David on May 20, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Melanie: I have 2 brothers who are police officers…I guess you could say many of the same things about them…

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      Dear David, Yes, so much of what I say here can be said about police officers. I admire them very much–and their families too! Thanks for reminding us of their dedication! Melannie

  4. Nancy Meyers SND Assoc. on May 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    My husband (Paul, now deceased) took care of patients in the Beverly Hills fire in Southgate, KY and will be honored Friday at the fire house. I can see God’s Hand in your article because it came the same week as the celebration of the firemen and squadmen. With your permission I would like to forward this to the Captain of the Southgate Fire Department. Peace and Blessings to all present and former firemen. Nancy

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Dear Nancy, How timely! Yes, you certainly may forward this reflection to the Captain of the Fire Department–with my prayers and blessings. Sr. Melannie

  5. Mary Schneider on May 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Sr. Melannie:

    Such a beautiful reflection. I am in complete agreement with your observations and conclusions; why did I never see it this way? I also was taught, by my Mom, to pray for any emergency vehicle en route to what might be a tragedy. Thank you again for all of your uplifting, down-to-earth articles.


    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Dear Mary, Your mother taught you well! Thanks for your words! Sr. Melannie

  6. Kathleen on May 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    My Dad was a Cleveland Firefighter (acting assistant chief), his father was a captain in the Cleveland Fire Department, my Uncle Harvey was a Cleveland Firefighter…I was never afraid of fire because of them. I was overcome with sadness on 9/11…the image of the firefighters and police officers running into the towers while everyone else was running out.
    Thanks Melannie for this beautiful tribute!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Dear Kathleen, Wow! Three close members of your family were fire fighters! You must come from “good stock.” Thanks for writing! Melannie

  7. Cathy on May 20, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I vividly remember my mother making the sign of the cross whenever she heard a siren. I never realized that she wasn’t the only one! She taught me to pray for those who might be in a fire or in danger. Thanks for bringing up that great memory of my mom. I miss her!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm

      Dear Cathy, What a good mother you must have had. Her faith must have been very important to her. Thank you for sharing your memory of her. Sr. Melannie

  8. Sister Miriam on May 20, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Dear Sr. Melannie,
    I too was taught in Catholic grade school that anytime you hear a siren you pray for the responders and those in need. I have taught my kindergartners, pre-k and nursery children to do the same. One kindergartner was in the car with her older siblings (who did not attend Catholic school) and they were making fun of her for praying. She responded “but what if it was the Easter Bunny, don’t you want to pray for him”. I guess it doesn’t matter “who” we pray for but that we remember to pray.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 21, 2013 at 6:47 am

      Dear Sr. Miriam, “From the mouths of children comes great wisdom!” Thank you for sharing this cute story with us! Melannie

  9. marian on May 20, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Hi Sr. Melannie!
    Our preschool disability teachers are amazing with their little charges…they adopt a new brood each year with a spirit of tenderness and fun…taking care of all of their needs through the day…and work through the summer program to help support the kids…it is a little bit of heaven each day with these special people are close by!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 21, 2013 at 6:46 am

      Thank you, Marian, for the beautiful example of unselfish love you’ve given us! Melannie

  10. Linda MacDonald on May 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Sister Melannie,
    your message is very timely in light of the tornado in Oklahoma. I was watching the aerial tape of the devastation and noticed the rescuers in yellow making their way through the rubble looking for survivors. I can’t imagine what courage that would take, but I thank God he has given people that courage!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Dear Linda, Yes, my message is timely considering the devastation in Oklahoma and Kansas. Our prayers go out to all those people and to the rescue workers. Thank you for calling our attention to this latest tragedy. Sr. Melannie

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