Fire is dangerous, home is safe. I had made the drive down McPhail Drive thousands of times in my life. I rode the school bus home from Acworth Elementary this way, rode home with my dad from ball games this way, rushed home to make curfew as a teenager this way, and drove with anticipation of telling my parents they were going to be grandparents this way. One fateful Thursday morning, the drive down the road was very different.
I was wrapping up a breakfast meeting. I try my best to not check my phone when I am in a meeting. Since it was the first day of summer vacation, I knew Shannon and the kids were likely still in bed, I did not even peek at my phone during the meeting. When I got settled in the truck, I saw a bunch of text messages in my notification center. Before I could read the first one, Shannon called. She informed me that my parent’s house was on fire and that I needed to get over there immediately.
My parents live less than two miles from the restaurant. By the time she and I wrapped up our conversation I was pulling down the road. The street is straight as an arrow until you get closer to their house. As you approach the house, there is a curve in the road. One I am so familiar with. It is where I start to look to see whether this is space in the driveway to park or not.
That day, I could not even make it to the curve. There was a sea of flashing red lights on more fire trucks than I had ever seen in one location blocking the road. I parked on the side of the road and started walking. As I got closer to the house, there was mom and dad standing in the neighbor’s yard watching fire fighters work to extinguish the fire.
Here are four, very valuable lessons that I learned from the fire that destroyed my childhood home:
Home Is Safe
Something that Shannon and I have always wanted is for our home to be a place where our kids and their friends feel safe. Not only had my parents lived in this house for thirty-eight years, my brother and I spent our entire childhood there. It was home. This was always a safe place for us. No matter what good or bad decisions we had made, no matter where we had been or what we had done, we always knew we could return there. Safe.
For the first time in my lifetime, their house was not safe that day. When I showed up, I could not just walk in like normal. Fire was the only thing that could rendered it unsafe.
Stuff is Stuff
There was plenty of stuff in the house when it caught fire. You find out through the process that most of that stuff is not important. It comes down to stuff like pictures of our childhood and special occasions, things that had been handed down from generation to generation, and other items that have sentimental value. All the things with a monetary value are replaceable. Stuff is just stuff.
Memories and Experiences are Fireproof
A week after the fire, several of my brother and I’s childhood friends showed up and helped us sift through the damage. It was our last attempt at finding stuff that had some sentimental value to my parents. The crew was way bigger than what was needed to complete the task. While we spent four long ours at the house, only about thirty of it was actually working. The rest was hanging out telling stories of the memories and experiences we all had of our home.
As I write this, there is a flood of memories and experiences that were created at that house. That house saw the best of us and the worst of us. It saw tears shed and uncontrollable laughs, disappointment and encouragement, anxiety and calm. Fire can destroy structures and stuff, it cannot touch memories and experiences. Those are fireproof.
Fire is Dangerous, Smoke Alarms Save Lives
My dad had left for work, my mom was starting to stir when she heard the smoke alarm go off. We all learned at an early age the importance of testing these devices. The question is, did that message stick? So, public service announcement for you, check out this resource from the National Fire Protection Associationon Smoke Alarm Safety. They save lives. A very valuable one that particular day.
Community leadership is the ability and the willingness to use your influence to better others and the world you live in. The most important world we serve is home. The blessing of serving in a local community is that you can make a difference every time you walk out of the house in the morning. The curse is there is a constant pull away from your time at home.
If you have been following this blog for any period of time, a consistent theme of the messaging is how critical home is to a leader’s success. If we do not prioritize home, everything else will fall short.
My parents were coaches, board members, grounds crew members, booster club presidents, you name it and they served there. Jeff and Kathy Albright set the example for my brother and I on how to serve a community while prioritizing home. Here is the thing, it was not just safe for us, but for our neighbors, friends, spouses, and grandchildren. Fire is dangerous, home is safe.
Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection
How safe is your home? From fire, but also for your family? Are you creating memories and experiences or does stuff take up too much space in your life? Is/are your smoke detector(s) up to date? How can you do a better job of balancing serving your community and serving home?