Not knowing is the best part

The day after a search for a missing person, a customer who had seen me in the background of the news footage asked me why I would volunteer for such undertakings. My response was quick and without thought, “We all need a hand when we find ourselves in a tight spot.” The question is common when people learn that I volunteer for a rescue team, and my rapid reply is a way of hurrying through the answer to avoid running a full self-analysis.

But as the years have passed, hearing my cell phone ring at 3 AM or attending countless hours of training, I have had that conversation with myself. “Wow, my bed was way more comfortable then this driving rain running down my back.” While hiking up a mountain in full winter gear, carrying a full backpack, snow so deep the snowshoes disappear with each step, fighting a biting, howling wind, all in hope that the person in need or rescue is not much farther… Naturally, questions pop into my head.

Questions are good, because without them we have no answers. Are they always the answers we want? Maybe not, but that’s how we gain knowledge and sometimes wisdom.

Have I discovered the true reason that I volunteer for a rescue team? Honestly, no. However, one reason is clear, one that holds a lot of meaning: it’s people. When our team is called, we are briefed with whatever information is available and off we go. Sometimes the mission ends quickly, but others can go into the next day… or two… or more. During all that time, a person is at the front of everyone’s mind.

When we finally have the person in our care, we care for them as one of our siblings. Sometimes we have a chance to converse and learn who they are. Other times we can’t, and never know more about them than we learned at the briefing.

We’ve met people from every walk of life and from several different countries, but the differences don’t matter. No matter who they are or what they do, our task doesn’t change, there is no tiered level of response or assistance.

Final good-byes at an ambulance or helicopter are often filled with thanks, hugs and kind words for our services. Driving home, I often wonder if this experience and our assistance will change the person or impact their life in a positive way.

I think about how people are treated by strangers when I remember the first time my 10-year-old son rode the truck with me. He was so excited to tote-and-promote that who he met or what they did didn’t matter to him, his job that day was to sell! After each presentation he automatically moved to the next bay, as if he understood the mechanics of being a tool distributor, and it was his own route.

Everyone he greeted was treated equally; they were all important, whether a tech, shop foreman or the shop owner.

It was refreshing to see the respect he was given, to see customers allow the boy in front of them to have a role in their lives and the chance to perform. Their respect gave my son confidence, not only to continue through the day but also to achieve a new level personally.

In any job or business, those first days and weeks are intense and grab your fullest attention. As time passes and the weeks seem a little longer, you start to feel the effort of making certain everyone feels important and is treated equally. That is the moment we are at the top of our game and growing.

Do those moments fade with time, as everything starts to feel “old hat?” Has judgment changed the way we treat some of our customers?

Getting called out at 3 AM isn’t always fun, but it offers a chance to remember the importance of treating people equally and a chance to impact someone’s life positively. The next time your cell phone rings, how will you handle it? That might just be a chance that offers more than you ever imagined!


Joe Poulin is a district manager based in Gray, Maine, for Mac Tools. Send any comments or feedback you have for Joe by e-mail to