A Firefighter At Forty

My brother, 50 feet in the air during a firefighter's  training exercise.

Dipping my hand into a bowl of jelly beans,I leaned in closer to my brother. I hadn’t seen him in a while and wanted to hear how his midlife change of career was going.

My brother, like many of us, took the long and winding road, the slow, scenic tour to find himself, to find his passion, too.  In his earlier days, his life was filled with rocky starts and stops –some successes even–as his entrepreneurial spirit met the reality of  a new interest or changing economy. To put it plainly, his life wasn’t always easy.

As an aside, my brother would give you the shirt off his back, run through a burning building to save you, but be forewarned: don’t cut him off in traffic, or even in conversation. Or bullshit him or try to upsell him in a car dealership or anywhere else because he knows how to put the impolite in polite.

But as time has a way of coaxing out our youth, so has it done with my brother.  In recent years, I have seen him morph into a more mellow and mature man.  And at the age of 40 or so, he has found what so many of us long for—purpose. He has now taken his volunteer job as a fireman and turned it into a full time career.

My little brother, or “Paw Paw,” as his twenty-something-year-old fellow firefighters call him, runs into burning buildings, rescues babies and heroin addicts who puke and overdose in accidental glee, and he does it all in a day’s work.

So, I leaned it closer as he talked about his daily work, his new fulltime career as a   firefighter at forty, and his EMT training. “I can’t tell you what it’s  like to know I am making a difference. Sometimes, I get to save people’s lives, and it is incredible to know that,” he said with a mix of pride and humility. The room grew strangely quiet for a moment, maybe in  homage to the horrors he has seen on his rescues, and for what we could not know.

He also talked about how he wished he had found his new career earlier. And I remarked that the sum of all of his other journeys is what likely led him to where he is, who he is now. Because sometimes our journey is wild and wooly, it takes us through back roads, valleys, over cliffs. And as much as we might want to question if we are there yet, the journey can’t be rushed.

Maybe, just maybe, it is the journey that seasons us, tenderizes us for future possibilities.

Maybe our souls have an inner plan, a map from which it journeys, and it uses its own compass and time table.

Reaching for a few more jelly beans, I settled back into my chair and thought about all of this. And about how proud I am of my “little” brother, Keith, a firefighter at 40.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace–if you’re looking for exploratory questions to unearth pieces of your soul, check out my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

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6 thoughts on “A Firefighter At Forty

  1. What a wonderful story. I love hearing stories like this because I, too, found my passion in midlife – in fact, your brother had a good head start on me. Good for him!

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