Have You Ever Had Doubts?

July 3, 2006
I am about to begin a journey of discovery my friends. It is a trip which I have looked forward to for some time now. But it is important to remind you again my friends, I am only human.

I am about to begin a journey of discovery my friends. It is a trip which I have looked forward to for some time now. But it is important to remind you again my friends, I am only human. As I face the approaching trip across our nation, it is only natural to have doubts and concerns about the task I have laid out for myself. So it is that I want to share a few thoughts with you this day.

The last few weeks have sped by with a velocity that seems to have approached blazing at the very least. It was my goal to complete a number of tasks prior to leaving for my FIRE Act Road Trip on Thursday July 6. I am pleased to report that the major tasks have been accomplished. That is so unlike me, for I am an expert in the world of procrastination.

Please excuse me while I wax a bit philosophical. I have been writing for a long time now. As a matter of fact I just went to my book shelf to examine a copy of my earliest work. My first article was published in the June 1978 edition of the old Fire Command magazine. Many have been the efforts which followed. Many have been the deadlines that were set and met as the years rolled by. Many have been the friends whom I have met as a result of my writing.

Yet the past couple of weeks have allowed me to experience a pressure not often felt in my life. Being a person of the endomorphic body style (read that Pillsbury Dough Boy), I am not prone to bursts of protracted hard work (except on the fireground). Not to say that I am lazy, but since that is how my wife would describe me: OK you've got me. It is just that I like to proceed through life at a comfortable pace.

As I have discussed my road trip and the intense preparations with a number of associates over the past days and weeks, many have reached a similar conclusion: "Harry you are nuts." My friends, I do not really think that I am nuts for wanting to make this trip. In spite of that, small pockets of doubt have crept into my psyche from time to time as to the magnitude of the task I have laid out for myself.

However, something neat happened in church the other Sunday that helped to cut through the fog of doubt that was beginning to cloud my thinking. Just to set the stage, our Senior Pastor Scott Brown was on sabbatical in Greece and our Associate Pastor Chris Van Debunte was on the road shepherding our youth group on a mission trip to Reading, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, our church has accepted a student intern from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. His name is Chris Jacobsen.

During his second week with us he was thrust into the role of conducting our Sunday services all by his lonesome. He responded quite well indeed. During his sermon on June 25, Chris offered the following gem of advice; a bit of encouragement from the pulpit, as it were. Simply stated the gist of it is in the form of a prayer. "Lord, help us to do those things which need doing." This was a prayer which seemed to be aimed directly at me: An inveterate procrastinator. His words told me to stop talking and start doing. They were both simple and direct.

So it is with this thought in mind that I want to tell you that there is a crying need for someone to write the true story of the good works brought about by the largess of the FIRE Act program. I cannot tell you how many people have spoken about what a great accomplishment this program was and is. However, when pressed, not too many people are able to tell me exactly why.

That, my friends, is the reason for my road trip. As a writer, I believe that it is incumbent upon me to do the proper research in order to create the true story of this special program which came about as a result of a dream by Congressman Bill Pascrell of my very own state of New Jersey.

At this point let me state that there are, I believe, a number or prerequisites for being qualified and capable to make this trip. Let me share what I believe them to be with you.

  • Having a wife who is willing to let me hit the road for 30 days. God bless Jackie Carter.
  • Having a best friend whose wife is willing to let him go for 30 days. God bless Sue Peltier.
  • Possessing a deep and abiding love of the fire service.
  • Being capable of stringing a couple of words together in a meaningful manner. God bless Fred Hazlett, my high school English teacher.
  • Have a place for all of that writing to appear so that others can read it.
  • Having 30 days to devote to the project. God bless the pension system.
  • Being fortunate enough to have a number of people who wish to share their stories with me. God bless you the readers of my commentary.

Since I have been blessed with each of these requisite requirements, I take this journey upon myself willingly. The actual trip itself is an aggressive attempt to meet with as many of you great people as I possibly can. This is the area of my journey where maybe I could be accused of a bit of excess optimism (or maybe this is where the insanity comes in).

The plan is for Jack Peltier of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy and me to visit 25 towns and cities over the course of 30 days. Just to let you know where I will be traveling to, I am listing the trip itinerary for you, in case you want to stop by and say hello. Here it is:

July 6 - Hershey, PennsylvaniaJuly 7 - Johnstown, PennsylvaniaJuly 8 - Poland, OhioJuly 9 - New Knoxville, OhioJuly 10 - Greenville, OhioJuly 11 - Xenia/Fairfield, OhioJuly 12 - Hardinsburg, IndianaJuly 13 - Longview, IllinoisJuly 14 - Goose Lake, IowaJuly 15 - Glenville, MNJuly 16 - Wyocena, WisconsinJuly 17 - Monroe, WisconsinJuly 18 - Cedarburg/Cudahy, WisconsinJuly 19 - Antioch, IllinoisJuly 20 - Bourbonnais, IllinoisJuly 21 - Gilt Edge, TennesseeJuly 22 - Smithville, TennesseeJuly 23 - Clanton, AlabamaJuly 24 - Albemarle, NCJuly 25 - Wilson, NCJuly 26 - Bedford County, VirginiaJuly 27/28 - Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, MarylandJuly 29 - Bruceton Mills, West VirginiaJuly 30 - Star City, West VirginiaJuly 31 - Wittensville, KentuckyAugust 1-5 - Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association Convention in Greencastle, Pennsylvania

There were many more fine folks who wanted me to visit them, but time was not available to stretch the journey. I think you will agree that it is a fairly uncompromising attempt to meet as many fire people as possible in the time available. I guess that crazy, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

During the three years I spent with Capella University working on my Ph.D. in Leadership, a great deal of time and energy was devoted by the school to teaching us the topic of time management. We were encouraged to make lists, and check off the accomplishments as they occurred. We were encouraged to set and achieve reasonable goals.

Being a world class procrastinator, this flew in the face of the way in which I have lived my life for low these many years. However, I came to see the light. If I did not get my act together and start operating in a logical manner, I stood very little chance of achieving my goals. Needles to say, I held my act together for three years and completed my work not too many months ago. I laid out my tasks and checked them off as I accomplished them. I would urge you to begin thinking along these lines.

That is how I prepared for this journey. I had to complete the final version of one consulting study contract report for a client here in New Jersey. I then had to write and submit the first draft of a consulting report for a client in Massachusetts. This was interspersed with my work on the fourth edition of Management in the Fire Service with my co-author Erwin Rausch. Oh, and did I mention that the Adelphia Fire Company has had a very busy month? I am proud to state that all tasks were completed by July 1.

Like I have stated, as the month of May ended, I had my doubts that all of the necessary tasks could be completed on time. How many of you felt the same way when May of 2006 ended? How well did you fare during the month of June. I would urge you to take the advice offered to me by Chris Jacobsen on June 25.

Each day as you prepare to live the life within which you find yourself, please take a moment to pause and ponder the impact of his words. "Lord, help us to do those things which need doing." I believe that living your life according to these words may well lead to a life of satisfaction and reward beyond belief.

Just decide what you want to do. List the tasks in the order you believe they should be accomplished and then do something. Please do not let life just happen to you. Take a positive hand in determining your fate and then trust in the Supreme Architect of the Universe to guide your steps along the road of life. Keep up with the progress of my trip on my blog here at Firehouse.com. Hopefully I will get to meet some of you on the road this month.

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