Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Being thankful

When you join the fire service, you become a part of several traditions. During the season of Thanksgiving, my fire company has a tradition of having breakfast at the firehouse to celebrate the holiday before we spend the day with our families. It’s a chance to gather with our brothers and sisters. I’m thankful to have them in my life.

Our Thanksgiving breakfast is about enjoying the little things. We enjoy the company of others. We have breakfast with the crew that we see often which adds to our friendship. We also catch up with people we haven’t seen in a while. I experienced that same friendliness with new people when I worked on Thanksgiving after I left the firehouse.

I work every Thanksgiving because it’s a fun holiday to interview strangers about their day and then write a story about their role in serving or being served at a Thanksgiving community dinner event. It began as a tradition for people who have lost their family members or do not have family local. This gave them a place to go to share a meal with other community members.

Every reporter loves telling someone’s story. Sometimes we learn that we have a similar story as someone else despite taking different paths.



The Thanksgiving dinner event, open to the public, was held at the West Chester Senior Center. I interviewed Army veteran Brooks Montgomery who said the senior center gave him a place to go when he retired. Volunteer or career, the firehouse has become that place for firefighters to be with friends at our second home and serve the community.

Montgomery sat with an Air Force veteran Ed Campbell. The two of them talked to me about my newspaper, and how I report on the Downingtown area, where Campbell lives. I told them how so many people I interact with in Chester County swear I’ll move there like so many Delaware County people they know have done. Campbell laughed because he moved from Delco. We held a steady conversation like friends catching up.

Daily Local News reporter Ginger Rae Dunbar and Air Force veteran Ed Campbell pose together at the Thanksgiving community dinner event at the West Chester Senior Center on Thanksgiving Day. 

I thanked Campbell for his service. He thanked me for that and added that he appreciated talking to me. I hadn’t realized that my role as a journalist helped fulfill the mission of the Thanksgiving event.

“Make people feel at home,” event organizer Angel Connelly told the volunteers, “That’s what it’s all about – family, community and fellowship.”

We do the same when someone new joins the fire company.

That new kid at school feeling won’t last long because a firefighter starts a conversation with you, asks you to join their table to talk or have coffee. No one has to tell us to do that. I think part of it is a reflection of how we were welcomed into the fire company and we want to extend that invitation to welcome another member into the family.

When people tell me I must be good at socializing because of the type of job I have, I tell them you can learn a lot about someone by asking questions. The key is listening to their answers.

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