The Meaning of the Meal

Let me once again state the painfully obvious to you. Food is a critical element of life. Without nourishment, we would soon wither and die. That's right my friends, food is a life or death proposition. Of course those of you who really know me would...

We even have a policy in place which allows the fire company and the lady's auxiliary to provide food for the families and friends of members who pass on to their reward. We look at this a final way of saying thank you to the people who have given so much to the fire department during their lifetimes.

These are the many reasons for sharing a meal which I have been privileged to share during my life. However, I now see a new mood within the fire service. It is a mood which bothers me. It is a mood which gives me pause to worry about the future of our fire service. Sadly, it has been my misfortune to encounter a number of selfish, one-way street people who want nothing to do with the people who wish to come together around the table and share their thoughts, their ideas, their ideals, and their meals.

There are also those who avoid certain meal-related functions because they do not wish to associate with other people. That this can happen in the fire service is a really sad commentary on direction that our field of endeavor is taking. Let me suggest that it is a sad commentary indeed when you cannot sit down and break bread with your associates.

There have been many occasions during my time in the fire service (military, career, and volunteer) when the supper table served as a source of healing and rejuvenation. Then again, this is a new world wherein we are living. It is a world marked by fractionalization and segregation into warring camps. Let me strongly suggest that there is nothing good which can come from this type of 'my way or the highway' interaction. There are very few absolutes in life my friends.

Let me suggest something to you. When we as a fire service start to forget the meaning of the meal, we are entering upon a slippery slope that does not lead in a positive direction. We need to come together and share the collective ideas which can lead to a brighter future for us all. And the best place to do this is around a table that is covered with a solid, sustainable supply of sustenance.

Try it. You'll like it.

HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, a Contributing Editor, is a municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ. Dr. Carter retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department and is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. He recently published Leadership: A View from the Trenches and Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip, which was also the subject of a blog To read Harry's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Harry by e-mail at