By Randall Hanifen 
Contributor, AMU Edge 

As we wind up another year, we must step back from our daily grind and do three things. The first is to be appreciative for what we have. The second is to look out for other people, as this time of year may not be a joyous time for everyone. Lastly, we must put pen to paper to make plans for the New Year and determine what we want to accomplish next.  

Being Appreciative of What We Have 

Appreciation can mean so many different things to people. But at the end of the day, we all have things we appreciate.  

Most people have families that are healthy and happy. Maybe you took a trip in the two months before the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, you probably grew closer to your loved ones, as life slowed down a bit.  

Maybe what was important in your perspective has changed. Some people may have received promotions or advancements in their career, while others made it to retirement. Some may have finally achieved a milestone of attaining a greatly desired material object, such as a new house or new car.  

Whatever you have, you should appreciate it. We are only on earth for a limited time and constantly trying to achieve more without being appreciative is not good for your health. 

Be selective about what you appreciate, however. As I age, I have a different perspective on life. I have watched people at the mall dropping thousands of dollars on a purse or other material object.  

While I can confess to wanting certain items early in my life and feeling that that material item was of the utmost importance, I later discovered is that you will have a brief satisfaction in acquiring that object. But in two or three days, you will want something else and work extra for the next item.  

Take advice from those who are older and have the wisdom. It is friendships, family and the memories that you make that you will appreciate in the years to come. 

Looking Out for Each Other 

While I have noted that we should be appreciative for what we have and much of that is centered around family, many may have family or other issues that cause them stress. The holidays can be a time of high stress that is hidden by those suffering from that stress until it is too late.  

For instance, I exchanged an email with a distant friend after Thanksgiving. We discussed Thanksgiving and the size of our celebrations based on COVID-19. His reply was “It was small — just me.”  

No matter if this isolation is planned or unplanned, it is more strongly felt on a holiday that has no distractions and can be very depressing. While I indicated to my friend that he was welcome to come to our celebration at any time, it was too late. It made me realize that you need to be proactive for those you work with or have as friends. 

The people in our profession will not speak up when they suffer from intense stress; there is a feeling that we are too proud and “manly” to say anything, although this attitude among firefighters is changing. This situation is why it falls to us to see if those fellow firefighters are acting different and showing signs of stress. 

The International Association of Firefighters put together a good list of firefighter suicide signs. There are many other online resources as well. If you are an administrator, you should also ensure that your department trains and keeps personnel who are trained in firefighter mental health. 

Plan for Next Year 

This may be the hardest year to make plans for 2021. COVID-19 is still present, but the vaccine is on the way. By most predictions, in-person activities will resume in the third quarter of 2021.  

However, Zoom and other video conference platforms will still be able to bring training and education to offices. One of the greatest things to occur during this pandemic is that every organization has discovered how to hold their meetings via video conference. This change will open many learning opportunities to fire department personnel who often cannot take time off to go to a conference. Instead, they will be able to attend conferences from their station or home.  

This transition to a greater use of technology is paramount for our profession, and we need to capitalize on the change. The only drawback is that the amount of training and education opportunities that are available is overwhelming. 

Set out to make a goal for what you want to study; use this time to improve on an area of weakness and then find a training and education opportunity to enhance your strengths. But it is important to balance improving our weaknesses and having an enjoyable experience of enhancing a strength. To only focus on improving weaknesses can cause you to become disappointed in training and shy away of all training and education in the future. 

Be appreciative, take care of each other and find ways to improve. This recipe ensures our organizations will thrive, no matter what happens during the pandemic. 

By Jinnie Chua

Balancing work and family over the holiday season can be difficult for police officers. If you’re scheduled to work over the holidays, don’t forget that there are many opportunities to enjoy the festive season with your co-workers and your family.