I just spoke to a group of first responders from around Michigan this past Saturday at Kalamazoo Community College. The Michigan State Fire Marshall, Kevin Sehlmeyer, and KVCC’s, Marty Meyers, were kind enough to coordinate the event. Both are deeply committed to helping firefighters and all first responders live the lives they deserve.
It was a full day of training where I taught on the development of trauma, PTSD, suicide prevention, peer support, and resilient leadership. A lot to pack in, but such a rewarding audience to be with. Speak to a room full of heroes and it is easy to stay motivated. Watch their faces change from reticence to hope, and you’ll believe each of us can make a difference in the life of another.
At the end of the day we opened for feedback and I received one of the most profound responses I have ever had at an event. A very experienced firefighter, someone who has done everything in the field from fire chief to union leader, state appointee to young firefighter, raised his right hand while he held a copy of my book, Who Am I?, in the other.
“Silouan, I’ve been looking through your book and listening to you speak all day, and well, you are right.” He raised his voice and he looked around the room. “What really matters is what happens in between the time we come home from work and when we go back the next day. That is what is important, our family, our budget, our friends and hobbies, our health and a good retirement. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll leave here focused on helping our firefighters make the moments in between matter more. I hope everyone here does the same.”
Heads nodded. A room full of faces understood. I just smiled. Almost cried. The air in the room was full of hope and empowerment. That IS what is important and it is so true that the storms, traumas, and noise of life can mask what really matters, regardless of your vocation or calling. It also encapsulated my entire purpose, helping people look through the junk we all accumulate and use all of our experiences, good and bad, to live deeply focused on the things that last and give us the rich meaning that extinguishes malaise and despair.
Why don’t you take a moment today and consider what you are doing with the “time in between”. Is it screen time, or family time? Is it TV shows, or dates with friends? Is it out in nature, or watching other people out in nature on Instagram? Is it preaching to others, or down on your knees in prayer. You get the point.
Thanks Chief, it was an honor to be with you. Finish strong, you are the best of us. You deserve a great life.