As I have traveled the nation, I have
encountered a loathsome creature, the Juztah. The Juztah walks amongst
us in the hallowed halls of our fire stations. It is a dark and gloomy
beast that scares away hope!
What is this Juztah? Why have we
not seen this fanged ferocity on Animal Planet? What does it look
like? What does it eat?
These are all valid questions, Brothers
and Sisters of the Fire Service. In short, what the Juztah looks
like is US! All too often, when I talk to firefighters across the
country, they tell me that they are a Juztah. I hear things like,
“I am just a firefighter” or, “I am just a newbie” or even “I am just an
Many times, this statement follows
a discussion on how they can impact the organization. It is heart-wrenching
to me to see the dark shadow of the Juztah, because the Juztah feeds on
hopes, ambitions and talents of firefighters everywhere.
In the American Fire Service we
deliberately recruit, cultivate and retain some of the best people on earth.
To allow them to cower behind the cloak of the Juztah is a waste of their
talents. It is imperative that every member of the team realize their
value to the organization. Every member of the department from the
newest probationary firefighter to the chief must share in the vision and
feel that they have a purpose.
I am reminded of the story of two
men working in a rock quarry under the hot sun. Each one is toiling
to swing a sledge hammer into a boulder. When the first man is asked
what he is doing, his reply is, “I’m busting up this rock!” When
the second man is approached he says, “I am part of a team that is building
a cathedral!” You see the first fellow feels he is just a rock breaker.
The second has vision and is part of a team. Clearly, he has purpose.
So how do we abolish the Juztah?
First, through our own self-discipline, no longer will we refer to ourselves
in this manner. Also, we must stop saying it about others.
Once we have accomplished this, then we will stop allowing others to refer
to themselves this way. When we hear it come from their mouth, this
provides us with a teachable opportunity. We all have a duty to reinforce
the value of our firefighters, particularly, if we are in a formal leadership
position within the department. Remember the famous author John Donne’s
statement that “No one is an island entire of itself…” if they are
a Juztah, it hurts us all.
Once we all decide to banish the Juztah
we will see a cultural shift within our departments. It is an awesome
concept of what could be achieved when all of our members share in the
belief that we are building a cathedral instead of breaking up rocks!
It start’s today, THERE ARE NO MORE JUZTAHS!