On Monday, November 14, we gathered with our neighbors of Fire District 7 to inaugurate a new apparatus going into service. I had never seen a "wet down" ceremony before, and it was striking to observe the sincerity and gravity with which the fire department and gathered neighbors exercised this tradition. It would have been so easy to dismiss the significance of this event - the replacing of an old, outdated fire truck with a new model - and yet, something about the way they marked this transition commanded our respect. Appreciation was expressed for the service of the now-retired fire truck, and it was honored for its role in protecting and serving the citizens of Snohomish County. A word of blessing and a prayer was invoked for the new apparatus before it was sprayed with water.
Because of this ritual, a seemingly mundane function (switching out fire trucks) had meaning. It mattered. Rituals are the ways we create and express meaning, and when we participate in them, we join in the process of shaping the relationships, meaning, and identity of our community. Most of the time, we go about our days never thinking about what is going on at our local fire station. We are thankful that they are available when we need them, but we forget that they are constantly putting themselves in danger and at risk for the sake of our neighbors. This "wet down" was an opportunity for the neighborhood to come together and ritualize our gratitude for the people and instruments who protect us and serve us.