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Young at Heart

July 7, 2011

In his song “Young at Heart”, Jimmy Durante croons the words – “Fairy tales can come true – it can happen to you. If you’re young at heart it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind.”

You might wonder how this positive thinking attitude parlays over to the physical side of things. I wondered the same thing until the other day. Let me share my experience.

Working as a fire chief for a primarily volunteer service – as much as you hate to – sometimes you have to don the fire gear. And, that can be an interesting experience when your birthday is next week – and you will be a “young at heart” fifty-four years old. But, on this day a fire was at hand.

The fire involved a farm building that stored three generations of tools and equipment. And, to make things a bit more interesting the temperature outside was 106 degrees.

I immediately donned my positive thinking cap. Then, I started humming “Young at Heart”. I had just made it through the second verse – “You can go to extremes – with impossible schemes…”, when a serious lack of oxygen took precedence over my desire to hum.

Now, destined to think the verses instead of humming, I proceeded onward. “You can laugh when your dreams ~ Fall apart at the seams.” Now, there might have been a few folks laughing, but I wasn’t one of them. And, the laughs were most likely at my “One/Ten Routine” – one minute of work and ten minutes of rest.

Jimmy then asks me, “Don’t you know that it’s worth – Every treasure on earth – To be young at heart?” I do value my youth, but I would’ve gladly traded a couple years of youth for some of the Gatorade in the Red Cross coolers. Luckily, they didn’t charge.

“And life becomes exciting with each passing day.” Now that verse was dead-on. Life does become exciting with each passing day. The aging of small town volunteers mirrors the general population. Frankly, it’s not a matter of choice between old and young – young at heart is the only choice.

Volunteer firefighters may not have all the equipment of their paid counterparts, but “For as rich as you are, It’s much better by far – To be young at heart.” I’ve discovered that heart can’t make you young, but it does allow us old firefighters to stay in the game – albeit at a slower pace.

Jimmy wraps it up saying, “And if you should survive – To a hundred and five – Look at all you’ll derive – Just by being alive!” I survived this three-and-one-half hour fire. And, I did feel like a hundred and five. But, I’m not sure what I derived.

I love you Jimmy, but I’m seriously thinking about learning a new tune. Many of my fellow firefighters are older than me, and they weren’t suffering physical collapse. And, I discovered they were humming something from Toby Keith.

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