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The Old Stuff

Someday, in the blink of an eye, it will be the time to look back and to reflect on what you did with your life.

If you were chosen to serve, did you serve others well or serve yourself? Did you realize, early on or too late, that serving well requires a few simple steps from each of us who are chosen?

Did you keep a run journal of each run, what you were sent for, what you saw, what you did and most importantly what you learned? Were you able to bring sunshine to others when their situation looked like rain? Did you dedicate your skills toward teamwork and the brotherhood, even with no youthful understanding that these times and bonds would last a lifetime?

I hope that you caught it when the old guy in the kitchen told you to be balanced and that the order always was and always should be your creator, your family and then your work. Everything else seems to flow a little smoother once you understand that.

Old guys take a lot of good stuff away with them, and young guys miss so much, when there is no bridge of mutual value and respect. The generational failure seems to be somewhere between a willingness to give and the willingness to ask. If you can't find a creative way to bridge over those burned out steps, please don't come to a fire with me.

My old black long coat sure was a good fit. Dickie Harris at the canvas shop repaired cuts and reattached the clasps with brass rivets. I wore it proudly in 1974 when I jumped off of the rig and charged upstairs with a booster line on my first house fire on Lipscomb St., where I felt the heat and quickly opened up on a lightbulb in the ceiling of the room adjoining the fire room. I got the real fire eventually.

My old black coat was washed more often with a tire brush and green soap by Mac "Bookie" McCullough than by me. Bookie met me at the nail each morning and we understood about each others night without saying a word. I remember the two fires in my first year, when they lost seven young kids. I felt his pain. It was my honor to work on Christmas mornings for him so that his wife JoAnn and their two boys Mackie and Michael could feel the balance of their father and my relief man.

I had it on, as a Lieutenant, when I went through a floor in Highland Park and my boots landed on the shoulders of Lieutenant Gary Holt, who was working in the basement. He pushed me up and I kept moving, but with a bit more caution, and I sounded the floor a little harder at future fires. Lessons for living hurt much less when you learn them before you get to the soft floor, by listening at the coffee table.

The coat cushioned a bit of the blow on a night fire on Semmes Ave.,when a coupling on a charged two and a half seperated and smacked me dead center in the chest and left me gasping for breath in a pool of runoff. Sometimes hidden trouble comes along in a career and just smacks you down. It's the getting up that counts.

The other coat and lid is an old set that I wore for a while back in the eighties. The big pockets are filled with the many memories and lessons that I learned and that I hope to share with you as I reflect on my life.

They also remind me of my good fortune for having had to honor of serving with such a big and extraordinary family. If we worked together, know that I never sent you anywhere that I wouldn't go and that when I called you out it was from an instinct that you too will develop if you engage, train, pay attention at the nail and listen and ask respectful questions at the coffee table and at the fire scene.

What memories will your old stuff recall for you when it's your time to teach a young person about a soft floor, a light bulb and the job dangers that lurk in the night?

Will your deep pockets covet secrets or open up with living lessons to a young willing learner with shaking knees, just like you had?

Pull out the old stuff - share it - it must be important - you kept it.

Thanks for caring and sharing.

Have a great day - it's a GREAT day for it.

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