How many of you have a litany of stories about how you almost won something, were elected to something, or just missed winning something? After more than six decades of trying and succeeding (and trying and failing) I am here to tell you that for far too many people, life is a series of "almost" events. The word "almost" is often used as one of life's great crutches.
Once again I have been blessed to experience another fabulous sermon at the Colts Neck Reformed Church. Our Pastor, Scott Brown, spoke of the significance of the word almost as it pertained to the interaction between Pontius Pilate and Jesus. Pilate could have set the Lord free. He could have changed the course of events in recorded history. He did not, but almost did. Let me ask you to think about the deep meaning of the word almost in that situation. Think of what happened (or might have happened).
My friends, there are really only two times in life when almost counts. I am sure that you have heard of those two instances many times my friends. They are in the world of horseshoes and hand grenades. How many times have we marched in victory parades for football teams which almost won a championship game? To the best of my recollection, none come to mind.
So too is it in the world of leadership. "Almost" is a word devoid of any real meaning. Think about it. How many times have you ever praised a person for almost being a good leader? How many times have you cheered for an NFL receiver who almost caught the winning pass? You just don't do that. It just does not work that way in the world wherein you and I dwell. I know I have never won praise from the fire chief when I almost held the fire to the building of origin. All he saw was the destruction of more than one building.
How many people have you ever met who promised to do something and then never showed up to do what they promised? Think about it. Did the fact that they almost helped you ever hold any water when it came to getting the job done for your fire department? I think not. In addition to the concept of "almost," a lack of follow through by people is turning out to be one of the growing number of organizational diseases we are facing in increasing measure here in the second decade of this the 21st Century. But how can our people model such a behavior if many in the world of leadership do not model it for them? Poor leaders begat future poor leaders.
As an observer of the world around us, I am noticing something distressing among a number of the newer members of our fire service. In the first instance there are just not as many people coming in to join our departments as we need. It seems to me that volunteering is a concept which has fallen upon hard times in society. I guess there are a lot of folks who almost came out to join us, but for whatever the reason they stayed home that day.
Another problem I have begun to see involves those people who actually do step forward to join fire departments, who then devote a great deal of time to completing the necessary training to qualify them for full membership in their fire departments. However, once they have completed all of that training (nearly 150 hours here in New Jersey), it is then that you stop seeing these people. They are being carried on the roles of our departments, but are not rolling out with us on the responses which form the very reason for our being. What is going on here?
Luckily my fire department has seen some really great young people step up to join the Adelphia Fire Company team. These people turn out for all of the training drills, show up at the business meetings, and respond to all sorts of emergency calls; not just the structure fires and major rescue calls. Ask I paused to ask myself why this is so, the answer was right there before my eyes.