Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Can't Fix It

fragile heart
Those of you who know me, know my heart is breaking right now. My empathetic soul feels crushed under the weight of division in the wildland fire service and beyond. I am known as a "fix-it" girl. Well, there are some things I just cannot fix, but I can influence what is within my sphere. There have been some horrible truths about abuse and harassment we have had to face about our culture. Truths that shatter the very values and principles that provide the foundation of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. There is no place for abuse or harassment from anyone, any time, or anywhere!

Serenity Prayer

I am not here to comment on any one issue or  to share my stories; yes, I, too, have them. My intent is not to add to the problem, but I want those in my sphere of influence to know the problem is real and all of us have a duty to provide a safe environment for everyone.

Some comments on our blog wanted to know why we don’t acknowledge the good people, namely men, in our midst. We have more good people in the wildland fire service than bad, but sharing our successes is still something we are chasing within many circles. Documenting the good is not as easy as it seems. Even the good men advocating for diversity and inclusion, and against the abuse and harassment of women, have shared their struggles to bring about culture change in these areas. Some have seen first hand how having the courage to speak out can spur ugliness in others. Some have been by the sides of those who have been abused or harassed. They have seen how these issues can nearly destroy anyone who brings an issue forward. We have asked them if we could share their stories; we are still waiting. One of our faithful followers, Paul Talbot, agreed to let us share his thoughts.

I am the fire service.
I am fearless beyond limits.
I am honest without hiding.
I am trust without a doubt.
I am stronger than anything.
I am accountable when I falter.
I am teachable, always.
I am in eternal preparation for tomorrow.
I am the old school and the new school.
I am tolerant and protective.
I am responsible for my well-being.
I am the ability to adapt and overcome.
I am command, the aircraft, the wheels and boots.
I am the plans, the logs, the finance and ops.
I am the caterer, the Porta-provider, the camp crew, I’m you.
I am the families at home who are missing you too.
I am all of us that have ever been and all of us that ever will be, we are one.

Me Too, is, You Too, is, Us Too.

I stand by my actions and yours are mine too. Regardless of topic, enough is enough when stated by me. When I say this is an issue and enough is enough, I respect myself, so I learn to grow, positively.
I have been around since I fought my first fire and I will be here long after this.
I have overcome obstacles of this magnitude before.
I am constantly striving for perfection, although I know I'll never be perfect.
I can destroy this deplorable toxicity within myself, because I am great.
I can no longer standby while I witness these things, I must act!
I can learn and grow positively from this, because that’s what I do.
I am the one who identified the issue and I am the one responsible for its cure.
I am guilty of this issue and ashamed, but hopeful.
I am the change that needs to be made.
I am accountable to make this change so I am ready to move forward towards tomorrow’s next obstacle.
I am ready for this, I’ve been ready for this, and you know it’s time for this.
I will embrace this moment, to which I have been gifted the momentous opportunity to positively alter the course of our future for me, for you, for us, and for the one who we become as a singularity, the Firefighter.

With love and respect,
Fire Service

Poor behavior happens across the gender spectrum and whoever perpetuates such actions should be held accountable. We have a duty to each other to rid our communities of all forms of abuse and harassment. In the wildland fire service, we know what right looks like. The Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles are what right looks like. They may not specifically spell out every aspect of conduct, but we know we should treat each other with duty, respect, and integrity.

Wildland Fire Leadership Development Values and Principles

Here are just a few thoughts I have floating in my head about how we face challenging situations. Please feel free to add to the list.

Lead a life of authenticity and integrity.
  • Be honest, credible, and trustworthy.
  • Be consistent and transparent.
  • Address issues when they occur. 
  • Show compassion. 
  • Walk the talk. 
  • Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • Don’t exaggerate the truth. 
Be impartial and seek truths. 
  • Don't assume every story is a lie. Don't assume every story is factual.
  • Obtain as much information as you possible can while treating all sides professionally and respectfully. 
  • Your duty is to objectively handle every situation. 
  • The person may come to you often. Treat each time as a first.
  • Seek to understand. Annie Duke in Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts* cautions us on how we form our abstract beliefs: 
    • We hear something; 
    • We believe it to be true; 
    • Only sometimes, later, if we have the time or the inclination, we think about it and vet it, determining whether it is, in fact, true or false. 
Umbrella with "Take Care of Yourself"
Take care of yourself.
  • Avoid self-loathing and fear-based thoughts. 
  • Acknowledge your internal conflicts. 
  • Take care of your body, mind, and soul. 
  • Know yourself. Don’t let others dictate your trigger points or actions.
  • Don’t give up your power. 
Respect others.
  • Treat each other with respect and dignity.
  • Look out for the well-being of your team members regardless of individual beliefs.
  • Our personal values influence our beliefs. This does not mean we can belittle others who think differently than us. There is room in the conversation for all of us. 
  • Healthy conflict is good; personal attacks and retaliation are cowardly responses. 
  • Stand up against unprofessional and inappropriate behavior. 
  • Some individuals want their matters kept private. Respect their privacy. 
  • Provide a safe space for team members to come forward. 
  • Our experiences are different. Don’t assume you know how another person feels or is affected. 
  • Acknowledge and promote good behavior and utmost character. 
  • "Bad apples" exist in every group. Hold those individuals accountable for condoned behavior invites the spoiling of the whole bunch.
Backing It Up 
  • Choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong is hard. 
  • Own your voice. Stand behind your convictions. 
  • Be willing and able to support your position. 
  • Ensure you have a support system when you come forward. 
 Start early. Start young. 
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
  • Whether or not you have children, provide a good example for children all ages to see. Children model their environment; they are mirrors unto ourselves. 
  • Think before you act or react. 
  • Your behavior can have serious side effects on others. 

About the Author:
Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

Source: Duke, Annie. Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts (p. 50). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

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