What's the Score?

You might think that the title of this visit with you has something to do with sports. After all, this is my favorite season of the athletic year. I look forward to watching my New York Football Giants try to give away the game each week. I love them, but I worry that there are two diametrically-opposed teams working in the same time space continuum.
There is the tough, hard-hitting gang that show up and kick the crap out of their opponents. Then there is that group of imposters who show up, drug the real team, and then go out and proceed to play like a Pop Warner squad. Ah, the joys of the fall season.
No this week's visit has more to do with another meaning of the word 'score'. I am using it within the musical context, whereby the score is the overall plan by which an orchestra's conductor works to weave the tapestry of the many different instruments into a pleasing performance for the benefit of the audience who has come to see them create music.
Each one of you has a part to play in the score which your fire department uses to orchestrate its daily life. Some people play the high notes and some people are charged with playing the low notes. The key to success comes from insuring that all of the parts are covered. Therein lies one of the major problems in the modern fire service. There are simply not enough people available to cover all of the parts.
As a tuba player, I understand this quite well. The job of the tuba section in any band is to provide a solid base of support for the band. In the absence of the bottom provided by a tuba section, the sound of the band can sometimes seem thin and lacking in depth. A band does its best job when all of the parts are covered and all of the players are working hard to provide the best sound that they possibly can. The same holds true with many things in life.
This Sunday just past was Stewardship Sunday at the Colts Neck Reformed Church. This is an important day in the life of a congregation, because it is the time where we are all asked to ponder our level of personal and financial support of the church for the coming year. There are those who suggest that this is the day of the year when the Hand of the Lord reaches down to touch their wallets. 
There was a time when I shared this view. However, such is no longer the case. I now see the need to become a steward of what has been entrusted to us during our time here on earth. As I sat listening to our Senior Pastor Scott Brown speak to the need to share our time, our good fortune, and our personal treasures with the Lord, the wheels within my brain began to spin.
If it is important to be a steward of the resources of our church, is not the same thing true in our fire departments. My fire company has been around quite awhile. Not as long a time as some, but more than others. Very few of us were at the meetings which created our fire departments. Heck, the last Charter Member of the Adelphia Fire Company passed away at least two decades ago.
These pioneers were the folks who got things started way back in 1927. Like many fire departments around America, ours was born out of a local tragedy. A fatal fire occurred on an extremely foggy night. Fire protection in those days was provided by the Freehold Fire Department, about four miles to our north. Their response was delayed by the terrible fog conditions that fateful night. 
At that time, a group of concerned citizens came together to address the concerns of the community. From this initial meeting grew an organization we now know as the Howell Township Fire Company #One. Since we have long been located in beautiful, downtown Adelphia, New Jersey, we have morphed into doing business as the Adelphia Fire Company. 
Over the course of the decades a succession of really dedicated people have kept the fire company moving forward. While my own time in the company dates back to 1971, my wife Jackie's Dad and Mom were long time members of the fire company. When I was dating Jackie back in high school, I can recall Pop leaving the table to answer the call of the fire siren up the street. Heck, I can recall joining him for a trip to the station after I joined the fire company and married his charming daughter. 
John Miller joined the fire company in 1936. He and Margaret Robinson were married in 1940 and soon moved into the house here on Main Street where my wife was raised and where we have now lived for nearly 36 years. Jackie's Mom was a Life Member of the Ladies Auxiliary, as is my wife. Pop lived and breathed the fire company. As the Howell Township Municipal Clerk, he worked in town. Rare was the occasion when he missed a fire call. I have worked to carry on his tradition of dedicated service to the fire company.
The point to this little yarn is really quite simple. It is with a great deal of pride that I can point at the stewardship which the Miller and Carter families have devoted to the Adelphia Fire Company for over 74 years of its 83-year history. My late father-in-law was the Fire Company Treasurer for more than 25 years. Under his devoted service, the fire company treasury always passed muster with the Audit and Finance committee.  
My daughter, my wife and I are continuing the tradition of family. My wife is a Life Member of the Auxiliary and Kathleen is a ten-year member of the fire company, who also serves as the organization's Secretary. I am an Ex-Chief and Life Member. I also serve as the fire company Chaplain.
As you might imagine there have been many more people who each played a part in growing our fire company from its humble beginnings in 1927. Each played their role to see that the work of the fire company was done on a daily basis. There were the fund raising events, the training sessions, the major fires, and the wide range of little things which a fire department does within its community. Each person played their part in the score which is the Adelphia Fire Company.
Let me now suggest that one of the major reasons for our success is the stable stewardship that our fire company has received from its leaders. Would you believe that there have only been five fire company Presidents in the 83-year history of the Adelphia Fire Company?
Let me also point out the fact that well over fifty men have stepped forward to serve as the company's Fire Chief. As one of those men, I want to state proudly that it was an honor to serve as the leader of such a fine, dedicated body of people. It is never easy stepping up to the plate and taking upon ones self the mantel of leadership. There are conflicting views, divergent opinions, personality differences, and flat-out periodic arguments.  I soldiered on and my share of mistakes. However, like all of the others before me (and since), I tried to do the best that I could.
It is in that time of trying to be a good leader that I feel my role as a steward of the fire company's fortunes was truly fulfilled. No one died on my watch and there were only a couple of minor injuries. We developed a solid set of operating guidelines and acquired modern firefighting turnout gear for the gang. We tried really hard to get the job done.
It is also my good fortune to have served the Board of Fire Commissioner for Howell Township Fire District # Two since 2000. I have been the Chairman for about five years now. My associates and I on the board are doing all that we can to assure that the citizens of our district are being provided with quality fire protection services in an efficient and cost effective manner. 
So it is with life. It is somewhat like being in the theater my friends. Each of us has a certain amount of time on stage. We play our role within the fire department. We do our job each day and then head home to our families. Whether we are a volunteer agency or a career department really does not matter. What does matter is that we try to do our best. That is what being a steward means. We take what we receive and then make sure it is there for the next person who steps up to take our place.
Some days have more meaning than others. Some days we climb the mountain and experience joy. At other times we simply end up pole vaulting over mouse feces. Our time in the fire service will present us with a wide array of experiences. That is just how life is. 
Let me leave you with an important thought here. Regardless of who we are and what we do, I want to urge you to work hard to take care of your fire department as you move through your time in the service. Someone was doing this before you were born and hopefully someone will be doing it long after you are gone.
Let me urge you to try to leave your departments in a better place then where you found them when you arrived on their doorstep as a raw rookie.   That is the meaning of stewardship. You share your talents, gifts, and abilities with others for the advancement of your department. To do any less is to betray the work of all those who have gone before. 
So if you are a tuba player, play the low notes and if you are a flute player shoot for the high notes. Never lose sight of what the score really requires for your fire department. If you are a conductor, please provide solid and easily-understood leadership. Above all, do a good job while you are playing in the band. You owe it to those who went before, as well as those who will follow along on us when we are gone. Thank you.