As 2020 comes to a most welcomed end, there is an opportunity to reflect and consider if any “silver linings” exist. No doubt that the year has been like no other, and there will be a period of time required to get back to normal, whatever that will now become. There are things that we learned that should help expand our horizons and abilities, and we hopefully learned how important other things were that have been taken from our regular routine. In this holiday season, whatever you celebrate, remember to connect. This can be done even during the pandemic and is more important than ever before.
Since the pandemic began, I, like many others, have lost loved ones, close friends, and associates. In my case, none were COVID-related. Most had cancer as the cause of death. The restrictions caused by the pandemic prevented almost all direct, personal contact. I have always known how important it has been to connect with folks directly, but when it is taken from you, you certainly have a much greater appreciation. I have known people who have died who I may have seen once or twice a year, at a conference, training, or other fire service event. I did not have that chance to socialize as I have in previous years. The lesson here is that you need to treat every opportunity as special and possibly the last or only personal meeting you may have. Realize that events such as FDIC International are not just great training shows but also are about connecting with your extended network. A message to pass on is don’t take these things for granted.
Along the same lines, I lost one of my closest friends to cancer. I was fortunate to have had lunch with him a few days before his passing. I talked to him by phone two or three times a week. I certainly miss those calls. I have caught myself picking up the phone before realizing he would no longer answer. While sad, I recall so many good times. We grew up in the fire service together (I know that “growing up” and “fire service” are sometimes contradictory!!!). Though he worked for me most of the time, I think I really worked for him. He taught me so much about the fire service, personal relationships, and life itself. I do think we parted as good as possible, but that was because we made a conscious effort to regularly and routinely connect, even after our days working together were over. The most important lesson is that you need to make an effort to connect with those who matter. With cell phones today, there is no excuse to not make a quick call. And, I strongly encourage the call, not the other forms of social media. The voice is what really makes the exchange meaningful.
A few years ago, someone asked if I could name three people in the fire service I would have one more conversation with if I could. It was very challenging to limit it to three. But at that point, it emphasized how important it is to not miss opportunities to talk to people. You never know when it may be your last. In some cases, I have done that, and it made the loss a little easier to deal with. For others, I wish I had one more chance. Besides the normal bantering and exchange, I wish I could thank them for what they had done for me and tell them how much I appreciated just knowing them. I strongly encourage you to reach out to those who have had an impact on your life, in this case those in the fire service, and let them know while you have the opportunity. It will be good for your soul and will certainly put a smile on their face. Don’t put it off. Do it while you have a chance so you will not rue the missed chances that you had. One of the lessons retaught to us by the pandemic is that we have no guarantees in life. You will not regret staying in touch with those that matter the most.
RICHARD MARINUCCI is the executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department in 2008, a position he had held since 1984. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering Editorial Advisory Board member, a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and past chairman of the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In 1999, he served as acting chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months. He has a master’s degree and three bachelor’s degrees in fire science and administration and has taught extensively.