A young firefighter was set to work his first fire. As he was starting to go into the burning building, his captain looked at him and said, “If you get into trouble, just hold onto my coattails.”
The young firefighter never forgot this. (And while I’m not quite certain of details through the years, I’m pretty sure that when he became a veteran firefighter, he would have said the same thing to new firefighters.)
Years passed and the young firefighter was no longer young, but a veteran firefighter. One day he went to the hospital to visit his old captain.
The captain was not old, but weak from the sickness that was so rapidly taking over his body. He spent most of his days sleeping.
The veteran firefighter walked up to the bed and said, “Hey, Chapman, can I hold onto your coattails?”
And Chapman replied, “No. I’m going to hold onto yours.”
A few weeks later, my uncle passed away, but that story has stuck with me every single day since I heard it. (I don’t remember who told me the story. I just remember it was at the funeral home, and that it made me cry.)
My uncle was just like that. As aggravating as he could be with picking on us, he would do anything for any one of us. He loved us with every ounce of his being and I know that if I needed him for anything, I could “hold onto his coattails”.
While I know I no longer have my uncle’s coattails to hold onto, I am very lucky to have others should I need it. While it may take me a while to get to the point of grabbing on to those coattails (I can be stubborn and sometimes withdrawn.), have no doubts that I will. And I hope you would, too.
There are times when life is going to be a burning building. It’s going to be hot and dark and smoky. And it will be so easy to get lost in that hot, dark smoke. What you have to realize is that we all have a “captain” right in front of us willing to lend us his or her coattails.
All we have to do is grab them. And while your captains can’t make the hot or the dark or the smoke go away, they will be there, and they will pull you through.
“If you get into trouble, just hold onto my coattails.”