Someone I Would Have Liked To Have Known

philadelphia_fd_fatal_Lately I have been considering the sad affairs of our world in regard to our tendency to create scapegoats for the things that go badly in our lives. I have thought a lot about diversity in any number of angles and again, it is tragic to me that today there are still those who lump others into a demographic that they can attribute their wrongs to, and blame when their own plans don’t go right.  It led me, actually, to when I woke up this morning and saw that a Philadelphia firefighter died in the line of duty, trapped in the basement of an involved row home.

This firefighter, Joyce Craig-Lewis, was 36, and an eleven year veteran of the force.  She was normally assigned to one of Philly’s busiest companies, Engine 64, but happened to be detailed out to Engine 73 for her shift.  I certainly will keep Firefighter Craig-Lewis, her family, and the greater PFD family in my prayers.

What I wanted to share though, was that it wasn’t too long ago in our nation when Firefighter Craig-Lewis would not have been given the opportunity to be a firefighter.  Not only was she black, but she was a woman. And while there have been any number of attempts to increase diversity in departments, they have not always been successful, with substandard candidates being brought in to fill a role, rather than getting people who desired the job and embraced the lifestyle of a firefighter.  And while I unfortunately never got a chance to know her, from many accounts, she was a “firefighter’s firefighter”.  I would have liked to have talked to her and to hear her perspectives on the job today.

Color, gender, orientation, religion, etc. – they are simply convenient columns to sort people into. With hatred in the world being sown against anyone who seems to have a different opinion these days, if we could look past these issues and see the facts; we are individuals and cannot be easily defined. Even if we can be lumped into a category based on our appearance or other obvious factors, those factors don’t limit us if we take the opportunities that present to us.

As we rise each day, we should not be looking at how we can stay away from those with differences, but instead looking to how we can understand them and develop enlightened observations. We all have to live in this world together, and while your perception is yours, mine is mine, and the only way we can move toward cooperation is to see what the other sees and to walk a few steps in their shoes.

Instead of assuming we know how others think and feel, ask them. Get to know them. Then spread the lesson to others.  In keeping with this, we will make this a better existence.

3 Comments

  • Ruth Phillips says:

    I’ve heard of all of these “substandard candidates brought in to fill a role” taking the jobs from those who truly “desire the job and are willing to embrace the lifestyle of a firefighter.” Do you mean people of color and women taking the jobs from the more deserving, uh, white male? I’m baffled as to your point and how a sentence like this could end up in a tribute to a fallen firefighter. Especially one who is a female of color. But it’s good to know you have heard she was a “firefighter’s firefighter” and not one of those “others.” You know, the ones that don’t deserve to be firefighters….

    • There are plenty of white males who don’t deserve to be firefighters. The most qualified individual should get the job regardless of race or gender. That doesn’t always happen for a variety of reasons that don’t need to be hashed out here. But way to miss Chief Mayers’ point entirely.

    • Mick Mayers says:

      Ruth, Thanks for the comment, although like Tom said, you missed my point. What I was saying is that I am honored and impressed that someone who not so long ago would not have been given a chance – for reasons of race and gender- was given those accolades. She is someone I would have wished to have met, to hear her perspectives on what she faced and how she met the challenges. But given the sensitivity of these issues, it is truly difficult to determine what is being said as a challenge to increased diversity. No, again, as Capt. Tom said, I happen to believe there are plenty of white males who can’t do the job, yet they seem to maintain a foothold on the market. Have a great day.

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