Last November I found myself the proud owner of a stepladder firetruck. An honest to goodness fire engine, 105 feet long with a full extension ladder. I realize I’m a bit eccentric, but even this was way out of the box.
On Aug. 1, 2018, I lost my father to Alzheimer’s. We delivered his remains to our home country of the Dominican Republic. This was a defining moment in my life: I recognized just how much of an impact our lives can have, one that far surpasses our physical time.
My father founded the fire department in his hometown, San Juan de la Maguana, in the southern part of the Dominican Republic; he stood up to a cruel dictator and risked his life to acquire his hometown’s first firetruck, well over 50 years ago. As we said our goodbyes, the gracious volunteer firefighters wished to honor their founding chief. We noted the humble, dilapidated and barely-functioning firetruck used to pay tribute to Papi. Without having a clue of process, cost or logistics, my brother and I, on the spot, committed to delivering a fire engine.
I tend to move very fast, not often spending time to reflect and ponder, but that doesn’t mean I’m not processing; throughout this experience I realized that my father had touched thousands of lives throughout his life. Even decades later, people mentioned his name with gratitude and appreciation.
Am I doing that?
I’m not writing this to seek compliments (although I welcome all the love and attention you wish to bestow!) But all the things that we do every day, that consume time, that keep us busy, are not necessarily memorable or valuable or even worthy of our energies. My father’s impact on his hometown and country, and in the lives of so many, reminded me that there’s a ripple effect to our work. It’s not just about effort or empty gestures. We have the opportunity to do something significant.
Referring to the Oprah Winfrey‘s obituary exercise, what would you imagine as your grand finale? What is the most epic life you can imagine? Did you cure cancer? Did you solve world hunger? Did you find the tool that prevents socks from disappearing in the washing machine? What will you be remembered for?
What is the plan for your life?
As I get older, I wonder what am I working toward? Certainly, I’m busy. Actually, this very column is late because I’m so busy. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m productive or impactful. This piece is about creating focus and working toward a goal, whatever that may be, and ensuring that it is meaningful after we are long gone.
A road map
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a mentoring session, and met with six women, where I noted a common theme: no life plan. No formality, some dreams, but no visualization or master plan. It’s kind of like going on a road trip, and not mapping out the itinerary to determine if you’ll be making a right or a left when you leave home. Are we going to Florida? Let’s take Interstate 95 South. But without that destination, or the plan, how will you ever get there?
I’m all for serendipity, I’ve actually written about it, and there’s certainly a place for allowing the universe and destiny to take you through life’s scenic route. But you should have an end goal so that your everyday decisions can be facilitated. When asked to join boards, or committees, or jump on projects, you can comfortably say no if not aligned with your ultimate goals and life plan.
Sound a bit selfish? Yes. That’s OK. Because I have firetrucks to deliver.
On Jan. 18, 2019, my family and I delivered the Aerial 105’ stepladder firetruck to San Juan in tribute of our father, founding Fire Chief Juan Andres Namnun. We understand this to be the only ladder firetruck in the southern part of the country, and we know this truck to have sufficient electrical power to support the entire hospital in the event of power outages
Pretty epic, huh? And that’s something we did. (Over 100 individuals and organizations donated time and money to make this happen!)
I am humbled to have placed my little tiny mark in this world. Hopefully, this will be one of many marks.
Friends, where are you headed? What’s your plan? Where is your firetruck?
Veronica Cool is founder of Cool & Associates LLC, a business management firm specializing in financial wellness and diverse segment marketing. Her column appears each month in The Daily Record and online. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @verocool.