As a young child and into my early teens, one of my most favorite places to be was next to my mom’s Dad. He was an old salty dude that had a soft heart for his grandchildren and I was fortunate enough that he let me spend most weekends with him and my Meme. Usually on Friday afternoons he would pick me up in his 1981 Honda Civic, and we’d have steak night and retire to the living room so Meme could yell at the Atlanta Braves on TBS. Saturdays were spent going to yard sales as he was essentially a professional hoarder. That, or we’d spend the day at his trailer on the lake where I was used as child labor, and I loved it.
Almost every weekend he’d ask me, ”Hey Bub, you having a good time?”
“Yessir, absolutely,” I’d answer because who wouldn’t have a good time hanging out with an old salty retired firefighter who loved spending money on random stuff and fishing tackle and just having a good time? Plus, he always fed me well and as kid, that’s pretty high on the list of ‘most important things'.
After I’d answer he always gave the same response, “Good, cause I’m spending your inheritance.”
When I was young, I’d just laugh and tell him I didn’t care about that, and what are going to do next? But as I’ve gotten older and since his death, I’ve come to understand exactly why he was asking me that question. It wasn’t a question, it was a lesson and I haven’t realized it until just recently. Little did I know that even though I was a child, he cared enough about my mindset on living that he’d always ask me that question. I wonder if he ever wondered, "When’s this idiot kid gonna get what I’m trying to tell him?" Well, I finally did and here’s the lesson, one I feel each of us should at least consider:
Spend your inheritance while you’re on this earth.
As my grandparents aged and eventually passed, almost every penny they’d worked for their entire lives was used to help support them even into and after their deaths. My grandfather wasn’t referring to the inheritance of money, or land, or a family business….he was referring to time. Money was only necessary for living. And most importantly, the inheritance I received from my grandparents had nothing to do with things, but most importantly, time. They gave us their most valuable possession. They extended it to us without regard and did it unselfishly. They gave us the fleeting moments of their lives and even more important than that, they loved every minute of it. We are their legacy, and the time they gave us is our true inheritance.
So, my question is this: What will we do with the inheritance we want to give to our families (our families and our firehouse families)? What will we do with our most prized possession, our time? Step one is to stop taking it for granted. Stop letting the seconds and minutes and hours of life tick by without spending our inheritance on this earth. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be out of the ordinary. We have to make time to spend our inheritance on this earth and give ourselves, our time, our genuine self to those we love. One thing me and my wife have been doing is making sure we spend some money on a trip every year, somewhere we’ve never been to see new things and to disconnect from the busyness of life. It’s one of the things I look forward to the most and mainly because it goes back to that simple lesson my grandfather was teaching me. The lesson of spending our inheritance so we can receive the true joy of what life has to offer. Give your time to your family and enjoy the moments because the reward will be far greater than leaving behind a legacy of cash. I love going on trips because I get that the most important and valuable thing in life is time next to my wife, the love of my life and my best friend.
With all of this being said, I'll leave you with a few questions to consider.
How will we spend our Fire Service Inheritance?
Will we waste away our time and then complain about it?
Will we take the time to listen to firefighters of all ranks and learn what they love about the job?
Will we pass on what we know and what we’re learning?
Will we challenge ourselves and others?
Will we build relationships and build trust from our habits and actions?
Will we take the time to enjoy that cup of coffee around the firehouse table?
Will we take advantage of all the opportunities to learn and grow?
Will we keep the best things about the fire service the most important things?
Will we put others first?
Will we raise the standard, hold the standard, and be accountable to the standard?
Will we Keep Tradition Alive?
Will we spend our inheritance while we’re here? Will we give our most valued possession of time to further the cause and receive the rewards of the fire service? It’s worth it. Let’s get to the giving.