It is always a very special time in my life when a number of different thoughts which I have created at a variety of times and in a variety of places come together accidently into a really neat new notion. Such is the case here. Let me mention that the beautiful weather which spread across New Jersey recently served as the genesis for a number of trips to my favorite thinking spot: my front porch.
Let me once again make an important observation. My friend, Bob Dylan got it right back during my high school days when he sang that, “The times, they are a changing.” Let me suggest that he did not know the half of it at the time. Things are changed in our world. I see no possible way for any of us to expect that the tone and tenor of our hectic times will ease off at any time in the immediate future. The closest I ever get to a slow down the pace of my life now are my periodic visits to the front porch of my home here in Adelphia.
So there I sat, soaking up the warm breezes which swept across my front porch and watching the passing parade. As the smoke from my cigar wafted lazily eastward, my thinking gland sprang open and a fresh new thought welled up within my mind’s eye. Was it not just a couple of short weeks ago that my front porch was buried under a record winters worth of snow? Was it not just a couple of short weeks ago that my front porch was being lambasted by the winds and record-breaking rain from a record-breaking March?
Yet here I sat, enjoying God’s Grace in the form of a beautiful day. Only a few short days after being subjected to the trials and tribulations one of the worst winters of my life, here I was languishing in the lap of a luxurious day. It was at this time that the words of a former pastor of mine came leaping forward. I can remember him counseling me during a time of personal trial to remember that, “this too shall pass.” It is tough to remember that thought when things are really going against you. At least it has been that way for me. He was right though.
As is the way, a day or so passed before the next couple of thoughts came to me. As I once more sat on my porch watching the sun set in the west, I paused to ponder about many of the things I had seen in my life. I guess the beautiful weather brought forth the philosopher in my soul. I then asked myself two simple questions:
· Can you remember when apparatus in our career fire departments staffed five, six, or seven firefighters per unit?
· Can you remember when our volunteer fire departments had so many people that we were forced to set up waiting lists?
Let me assure you that I can remember when the answer to both of these questions was a resounding yes. Had anyone ever suggested to me that these things too would pass away from our agencies, I would not have believed them. However, the new reality we face in 2010 is much different from the historic facts I have at my command. Change is inevitable. Let me remind you that how we choose to react to or prepare for change is up to each of us. Let me now suggest that a societal change which many among you may, or may not, have noticed going on around you, has come to pass.
Perhaps you have heard me speak about the possible impacts which societal changes may have had on the ability of our volunteer fire service to survive and protect our communities. It has also been my privilege to write about this on numerous occasions through the years. I cannot even count the times I have covered this topic.
Wherever I go, I try to look around. I ask questions and I take notes. Saturday April 10, 2010 found me in Clayton, Delaware at a meeting of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Association’s (CVVFA) President’s Council. This is a gathering of the leaders of a number of state-level associations in the Middle Atlantic Region. These fine folks come together in order to share what has transpired in their states within the realm of fire service programs and legislation. Ideas are shared, strategies are outlined and friendships are renewed.