Two brave men — Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman — died Sunday fighting a fire at 528 Magnolia St. in this city. Mr. Machcinski was a veteran and Mr. Dickman was a rookie. He hadn’t even had his graduation ceremony yet.
They did work most of us could never do. They took risks most of us would never take. They ran toward, not away from trouble, as firefighters do. They put their lives on the line for others, as firefighters do.
How shall we honor them?
Mayor Mike Collins said that this is a wound upon the city that will never heal.
We don’t want it to heal. We don’t want to forget.
In the coming days, we will keep vigil, and maybe learn and resolve.
I used to keep a quote on my refrigerator from Sargent Shriver, the first head of the Peace Corps and later head of the war on poverty. To a graduating class a few years before he died Mr. Shriver said: “Teach those who are ignorant. Care for the sick. Serve your families. Serve your cities. Serve the poor. Serve, serve, serve. For in the end, it will be servants who save us all.”
It’s easy to remember that Mr. Machcinski and Mr. Dickman were heroes. That is obvious. But we need also to remember that they were servants. People who put helping others above their own interests. People who served humankind. People who laid down their lives for their friends.
There are many ways to serve. As many ways as there are people. And there are some true public servants in Toledo. I think of police Chief William Moton, of fire Chief Luis Santiago, and of labor leader Baldemar Velasquez, and of the people who volunteer to be court-appointed special advocates for abused and neglected children. But also of Greg and Peg Sammons, a husband and wife team of two Episcopal priests serving St. Micheal’s Church in Ottawa Hills who retired last weekend. For 20 years they comforted the afflicted and healed souls — two fine pastors and preachers who served humbly but with tremendous impact in one little corner of one Ohio city. Or Pastor Robert Culp who has, for almost 50 years, been Toledo’s civil rights conscience. Or Terry Glazer, working to save neighborhoods one home, one job, one person at a time in the North End, where this fire occurred.
Not everyone can be a firefighter. But everyone can be a hero. Everyone can serve.
What are you doing, what am I doing, to serve?
How about our new mayor and City Council? I hope they will serve, and not rule.
Or our civic and business leaders? Will they pull together or build separate silos and hold exclusive conversations?
The theologians tell us there are three basic forms of prayer: supplication, thanksgiving, and awe. Or, in the words of the writer Anne Lamont: “Help, thanks, wow.”
I think every person in this city is praying for help right now — help and consolation for the loved ones of these two fine men. They need help from above. And from next door.
Our gratitude for these two lives of service is deeper than words. Mr. Machcinski and Mr. Dickman showed us something about how to live.
Let us stand in awe of the brave men and women among us, the great souls, the givers.
If we truly seek to honor them, we must emulate them. We must serve.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.
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