How often have my words urged you to approach life in the fire service with a certain degree of flexibility? There are just too many variables at work in the world to insist that your way is the only way. Many times during my life, people have told me that I needed to loosen up and be more flexible. These folks urged me to go with the flow.
My friends, this is never an easy lesson to learn. Oh, it is easy to give advice on flexibility, but it has been my experience that flexibility is a learned attribute. It is something that you come to have at a certain point in your life. Maybe you do not even recall the day that you started to be a bit more flexible.
I cannot recall that moment. I think it came, but sometimes I wonder. Many of the organizations to which I belong are not bastions of flexibility, so it is difficult to be the willow tree in a forest of oaks. As a matter of fact if you were to ask my lovely wife, she would say that I have yet to get to that point.
Let me share the fact that life's lessons about flexibility were learned over the course of an extended period of time in my life. The lessons riveted themselves into my mind during my many years as a commuter to the City of Newark, New Jersey. Over the years I came to understand that there was more than one way to get to work.
As it turned out, there were about eight ways, or combinations of ways to get to work. There were the everyday routes which were good as long as people managed to avoid hitting each other. There was the older trip-down-memory-lane route up U.S, Highway 1/9 through Woodbridge, Rahway, Linden, and Elizabeth, on the way to Newark.
It was that route which took me back to the days in the 1950's when my parents would take my brother and I to Newark for the Thanksgiving celebration at our grandparent's home on Lafayette Street in that city's Ironbound section. However, that way could only be used on weekends and holiday mornings headed in to work.
There were also the longer, emergency and national holiday routes that avoided the heavy traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike and The Garden State Parkway. Then there were the sudden emergency routes which involved having to duck off of a regular route and taking another road which I may never have seen. Some of my greatest adventures came during these sudden alterations to my commute. I found places in New Jersey I never knew existed.
Perhaps what I am trying to say is that the living of life is a matter of experiencing things and then learning from what has occurred. As I wrote a number of weeks ago, when someone hands you lemons, quickly begin the search for water and sugar (or sugar substitutes) so that you can create some world-class lemonade.
This lesson was brought home to me again the other day. I have a new assignment as an on-line faculty member for an American educational institute. After spending a number of days preparing the work within my course-room area, I thought that all was in readiness to begin helping a new round of learners acquire a fresh set of educational experiences.
Imagine my surprise when one of the students asked me a question on the disparity between what the module overview specified, and what the textbook provided by way of reading assignments. After a cursory review of the material I began to develop a terrible feeling about what was happening.
Whoever created the modules and lectures for the course which I was expected to teach had based it on an older edition of the same text that my learners had just purchased from the school's book store. Many times there is not a great difference between editions of a text by the same authors. Sadly, this was not one of those cases. There was a great difference between the older and newer editions from the same authors.
My initial reaction was to become upset. I quickly fought that urge. No one would have been well-served by that sort of action. I paused for a bit, went out to the kitchen to brew a fresh pot of coffee and went out into the backyard for a breath of fresh air.