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Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.



Monday, December 16, 2013

A Heartfelt Apology


Dear __________,

This is a letter that is long overdue.  I honestly didn’t realize how much my actions had impacted you and how my lack of awareness resulted in me saying and doing things that were hurtful.  That this went on for so long is just a sign of how much I needed to grow and mature and become more self-confident. I placed unrealistic expectations, over-the-top demands, and unfair judgments onto your actions.  I punished you for trying and failing—and for succeeding. But now, in the face of new lessons learned, old lessons reinforced, and in the midst of a renewing Christmas Spirit I need to say how sorry I am for how I hurt you.  Sorry for how I abdicated my role as an emotionally mature and stable to adult to outside forces and for the manner in which I reacted rather than observed and used words like wrong or unfair or guilt or shame when I should have stayed silent and just watched without reaction. 


I have always had a suspicion that my efforts to grow would lead me to this action.  They say somewhere in one of those famous steps you are supposed to write letters of apology to those you have hurt.  I understand now why that is such an important step, but also why it is so difficult.  Even to know that you need to is the product of experiences and learning and crying and feeling so lost in the blackness that you wonder if there will ever again be light, much less a way out. 

However, even in the books, they do not tell you to whom the first letter apology is owed. They cannot tell you.  That is a realization which must be lived. It can only be known in those places in your heart and soul where you feel truth.  The places the poet touches or the cello player in a cathedral or that are seen in the deep blue lingering flame of a Christmas Candle.  It is in those caverns where the stalactites are records of ancient truths known but forgotten.  Truths that reveal that the person we harm so greatly—the person who we punish more often and more harshly than any other—is ourselves. 

It is only our own light that we so often snuff out for a moment or a lifetime in the face of fear and sadness and longing.  It is only our own lamp over which we throw a sheet, hoping the neighbors don’t notice the cobwebs and the debris and the decay.  It is only our own potential that we wrap in paper and hide in the back of the freezer like stolen gains of a long ago bank heist.  But, if we are lucky we come to learn that our light is not meant to be hidden.  If we are to be true to who we are—whose we are—our light must be allowed to fill up our own house and be shared with the world.

Only then, when we accept these truths can we know the purpose we have and the role we must fulfil.  Only then will we feel—in those corners of our soul—the most important message of all:  “I may be hurt, but I am not harmed”—lost from our childhood is the lesson that the monsters under the bed are not real.  Instead of living through that power, we too often move the monster out from under the bed into every other part of our lives.  And, fearing that we shall be destroyed or disappointed, we try so very hard to hide from all the places the monster may lie. Slowly, our worlds become full of monsters—and the tsunami of fear overflows everything in its path—most of all—peace.  So whenever we think we are in the midst of the thing that will do us harm- we defend, we “fight” and we react—just the same as the five year old at the parent’s door begging to not have to return alone to the scary blackness of his room. Little does he know how much he will laugh in later years at the story, or how we will repeat the same actions in different ways while wearing a suit and tie with framed souvenirs of success on his walls.  Only the names of the monsters really change. 

Why can the monsters not harm us—whether five or thirty five?  Whether under the bed, in the boardroom or sitting across from us on valentine’s day ending a relationship that never existed in the first place? Because none of it matters.  Not one single solitary bit.  Does that make it right that someone is rude or insensitive—no.  Does it make it okay they use you or don’t call you back or that they will never treat you the way you deserve.  No. But it is something we cannot change. The only hope we can have is to change our reaction to it.  If we latch on and cling to the injury the wound will never heal.  If we let it pass over us like the crashing wave, stop the fight and the bitter longing for control, we will bob along till the next one, and all those after.  And maybe, we will create an environment in which our awareness and the other persons can grow.  Either way, to fight and claw and stammer and stop has no good outcome, no matter what monster, no matter what age. 

But, whom do we punish most of all with our reactive, judging selves.  Our inability to let go. The answer has been this year’s greatest Christmas Gift.  To learn that I have punished myself far too harshly, judged my actions—built my own castle of shame.  Failed to love who I must love first.  And from that unwise step, I have set myself up for so many tragedies, big and small.  The stories of legend.  Not of a superhero saving the kingdom.  But of a king who nearly burned his own castle down, without so much as single arrow from the black knight to show for the battle. 

I suppose I do owe an apology or thank you to more than a few other people.  I was often too demanding in my expectations, especially when their awareness was different than mine.  When their actions failed to meet my expectations, rather than show love, I reacted—hurt and wounded like a sorry animal.  Rather than open and observant like a human.  I am learning now.  I will try to do better.  But to those of you who pushed me along the path, I must also say that I am not saying I was wrong for not ending up with you. I was only unwise in how I reacted to the lesson and experience you offered.  Perhaps if I had been different, things would have turned out different.  Or, perhaps, if you had acted differently, been more understanding with me, then things would have been different.  Who knows?  For the past, is past. 

In this moment I am focused on myself.  On forgiving me for what I have done.  Trying to move forward in a place of peace and awareness and looking at things much more simply.  Does it help me be the better me, then it is something I should do or continue.  If it does not, then I must let it go.  That is what our life requires—to clean out the junk and the clutter of our heart and spirit so that the sun may shine in and so that we may shine out. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why?

Many of you are aware that I was recently promoted to the rank of Deputy Director, Fire Dispatch Operations, FDNY.  You may also be aware of my passion for helping to develop, and improve the profession that is public safety communications.  However, it would seem to be that, as a leader, in my own agency, I have failed to sufficiently express to some why it is I was so honored to accept this position of leadership and just what I hope to accomplish in my new role. 

If the rumor mill is to be believed, I am in some person's eyes here to sell the soul of our proud organization to the likes of APCO and NENA.  Much in the same way horrid way American soldiers sometimes march under the UN flag.  To others, I am only here to boost myself, on the backs of those who came before or whom I work with now.  To still others, I am only about making efforts to merge us with NYPD and EMS to wipe away the last remnants of what once was. 

That is only a partial list of what I have heard.  And I am over the initial feeling of pain and anger when I became so aware. But it speaks to the challenge that is my role.  The nature of many to fear all things new, or ideas that are misunderstood.  It screams at our human abilities of assumption and judgment rather than communication and discussion.  And, more importantly, it flies in the face of a history that reveals quite clearly what I feel about the agency I work for and those I work with.  But ignoring history is nothing new for far too many.  Operating from positions of distrust, disunity, and dissension is the norm for far too many.  I knew it when I accepted.  I know it now. 

In this format, I wish to answer a question that I have never answered before.  Most will never read this.  But, in truth, it is not for them.  It is for me. 

I am in the role I am in now because I believe that we, as members of the FDNY Bureau of Communications represent much of the best of what a Dispatching Agency can be.  By our efforts we have shown time and time again that professional fire dispatchers can handle nearly any event with effective precision, even if that event is unanticipated. 

But I also know that we are hurting.  No PTSD counseling after Sandy.  No plan to manage the next Sandy.  Facilities that do not meet our needs.  Training and Supervision that do not live up to standards.  Policies and Procedures that do not address the challenges we face.  A workforce that is dispirited, dismayed, and disillusioned after years of change that was not managed well if at all.  The times have changed for our organization.  The environment has changed.  The challenges have changed.  We are just as likely to oversee the response to a building collapse or major emergency as we are a major fire.  And that has not been reflected anywhere in our behavior as an organization.

I see these realities everyday when I go to work and everyday when I watch the news.  Every day when I read about other agencies failing to meet the same challenges and the immense costs of those failures.  These are not invented.  They are not imagined.  They are the after effect of a bureaucracy that looses sight of it mission; a workforce that is undervalued; and a fire department that too often sees Dispatchers in the same category as payroll clerks and managers. 

I want to help change that.  Not later, not in  year, not in a decade: but now. 

There are tools out there to help change that culture.  To help us meet those challenges.  They are found in the lessons from other agencies. In the training and support offered by our professional associations.  In the experiences of our own storied past, from 9/11 to the War Years, to everything in between. 

The women and men of our agency deserve better.  They deserve an agency that blends the best of the old, with the best of those that are here; with the best of what can and should be.  It is my hope to help others see what we can be.  To begin to see what we do as a calling, as a profession, and, by living up to and expressing that vision, teach others to see us in the same light.

We will not achieve greatness as an organization by being smaller versions of ourselves.  By accepting the limitations that have been imposed.  By no longer lighting the desire of passion for being a dispatcher in our newest employees, or keeping the cauldron lit in those that have been on a while.  No, we are at a breaking point.  The events of the last few years have left us battered and bruised and beaten down. 

But I know, from those who have inspired me, that this can be the beginning of something great.  Not because I or anyone else hand it out like so much hallowed candy to beggars in costume. No.  Because a group or proud and dedicated women and men decide that we will live up to and beyond our reputation.  That we will overcome the doubters inside and outside our organization.  That we will not accept what we have been given. 

It begins with each individual taking responsibility for their actions.  And, as a group, taking responsibility for us all.  We speak so often of being a team.  But so quickly put others down.  Say-- That wasn't my fault.. that was his or hers.  Well, are we a team or aren't we?  Are we accountable to each other for what we do?  For how we are?  For how we treat each other.  Too much of the past few years has been not degrading comments from outside-- but from inside.  If we want a better future-- this must stop-- NOW.  For we are all in this together.  And the person you may dislike personally, may be the person that catches a huge mistake and saves us all, or a member of the public.  In truth, each black eye we obtain is not a result of a failure of the one, but of the many.  We are not here to make the best of friends with everyone we know.  Like a firehouse, we are here to be a family.  Looking out for each other. making sure we succeed.  Together.  Always.  If you don't see that thought.  If you don't feel that in the organization. Then your first job is to create that feeling:  In yourself.  It will then carry out into others until we again express the highest ideals of team-work, accountability, resilience, and dedication.  Until those are true for all of us, we are just Lone Rangers corralled into the same tent. And we will fall at every outside effort to tear us down or divide us. 

Something better than that.  Dedication to the public and to each other. Pride in our efforts and our abilities. Accountability for our results (good and bad) and genuine Love for our bother and sister dispatchers.   That is what I want to inspire in each and every soul I work with.  It is also the vision I have for our entire community of Public Safety Communications.  Plain and simple.  Its what I believe.  Its what I get up in the morning. 

You may hate it, you may disagree with it.  Which is obviously your right.  However, I too have a right and an obligation.  Which is to ask you, if not my vision, what is yours?  Is it something we can work through together to understand perhaps different sides to the same coin.  Or is it just holding on to tired beliefs, and immature mindsets.  Is it just saying no out of fear.  Or out of jealously?  

Whatever the results.  However the vision is created, we have learned together that it must be something that brings us forward.  Something that allows us to grow.  As an agency, as an industry, as a passion, and as a profession.  For anything else is what you claim to fear the most.  Death.  Of something you claim to love so much.  The choice is not mine.  I have chosen.  The choice is yours.  Come along on the ship.  Help to steer it.  Help us make a better way.  Or chose to stay safe on the shore.  I know where I will be and, more importantly, I know I will never, ever be alone.