Like many people in America I play the lottery games in my state. I have never won more than a few bucks, but as one famous writer has noted, "hope springs eternal in the breast of man." There is a lottery slogan which will serve as the foundation for this visit with you. "You've got to be in it to win it." If you think about it, this statement makes sense. You cannot win the lottery if you do not play the lottery. Neither can you be a part of your fire department's success if you insist on sitting on the sidelines.
Let me assure you that this visit with you is not about the efficacy of gambling, for you see, life is itself a game. No, I am making reference to the fact that life is not a spectator sport. If you expect to have an impact on life in the world today, you have to make a conscious effort to contribute. You cannot let the winds of change blow you about like a leaf in an autumn wind.
Like many of my thoughts on life in general, the genesis for this idea came while I was in church last Sunday. Chris Van Debunte, our associate pastor delivered a sermon entitled "A View from the Bleachers." This gist of his sermon revolved around the fact that if you want to have an impact on life, you have to do something. What that something is or might be can be the subject of much debate and conjecture, however, Chris suggested that it was important just to get up off your duff and be a positive part of life.
It is interesting for me to note that I had been thinking about a particular topic out there on my front porch which ties in quite nicely with this issue. On Saturday night last, I was out there in my thinking place, with my cigar and my thoughts, when it came to me that it was time to make another push toward the subject of mentors and their importance to the future success of any organization.
As I listened to Chris speak about the involvement of Biblical figures in the history of our faith, my Saturday night thoughts began to come into sharper focus. Neither you nor I have the right to sit in the bleachers of our fire departments and pitch nothing but bitches at the people who have stepped forward to take an active role in the running of our organization. We must act.
It has long seemed obvious to me that it is a lot easier to complain that it is to affect change. You really do not need a depth and range of grey matter to keep complaining about what you do not like. You do not need a brain, just a mouth. On the other hand, stepping up to the plate and taking a swing at the ball of leadership takes a lot more in the way of intelligence, common sense, and, of course, testicular fortitude.
As you might imagine, it has been my lot in life to absorb a great deal of flak for my ideas and ideals. Many times I wondered during my years in Newark why I seemed to be in so much more trouble than many of my fellow travelers. I did not arrive at an understanding of this quickly or easily. However, it did come to me one bright and sunny day. Harry, you get into more trouble because you try to do more than many other people.
Even if there was a common denominator for a 'screw-up index,' my numbers would be higher. Think about it this way. If there is a steady rate of screwing up in life, let's say ten percent, then if you try five new things, and I try ten new things, it just stands to reason that I would get into trouble more than you did. However, since I took great pride in twisting the tail of the mighty, my numbers were probably skewed a bit higher.
But here is the key fact my friends. I was always in there pitching. I tried and I failed, but I kept on trying. Eventually there would be some form of success. Once I learned the ways of the world in this arena, I was able to forge ahead and work with more focus and more diligence. What I also tried to do was share my knowledge of the system with the people who were on my team. We tried together, we worked together, we failed together, and when we eventually succeeded, we succeeded as a team.