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March 23, 2015, Beamsville, Ont. - Society appears to place great emphasis on what’s on the surface – on the outer appearance. Many people fail to attend to the actual substance, or lack thereof, in their lives. People see a great building, they see its lines, and how it uses and reflects light. They see its outer beauty but fail to concern themselves with its great foundation and strength; its inner beauty.

As firefighters you know there is much more to a building than its outer appearance. You also know there is much more to life than mere appearances.

Everywhere I look I see busy, insecure and hurried people. Many appear fed up and want to slow down but fear losing the edge. Today, everyone is expected to work day and night to improve their stations in life; to go, go, and go some more.

In my last blog I mentioned we should periodically pause to check in with ourselves. There are a number of self-inventory worksheets available on the Internet that will suit this purpose. However, don’t think you can run through one during a coffee break as it will involve some serious reflection on your life and dreams.

Writing this I am reminded of a quote from Aristotle: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” While some people maintain this principle describes the synergy that exists when working together in a co-operative effort, I wish to apply it to people. I believe we are more than flesh, bone and electrical impulses. I believe we also have a soul that animates us.

In order to better explain what I am attempting to say I want to touch on trees. Growing up in the country I was surrounded by trees. I appreciate their majesty, strength and character. Trees are beautiful to look at; yet there is more to them than just beautiful leaves. Trees are calming, they provide shade and they provide oxygen and moisture. Trees also have other positive environmental impacts by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, intercepting rainfall and reducing land erosion. Trees also provide emotional benefits. Studies have shown that hospital patients with a window view of trees recover slightly faster and with fewer complications that those patients without a window view of trees.

Trees are made up of five layers; an outer bark, an inner bark, the cambium cell layer, sapwood and heartwood. As trees have several layers so too do people. A tree’s outer bark protects it from the outside world. As humans, our outer bark is the appearance we project. However, we shouldn’t allow our outer bark to block access to our heartwood. The heartwood is the central supporting layer of the tree, and a person’s heartwood is his or her inner strength, character, and essence.

Now consider this: a bag of leaves is as light as balloons and to me this indicates that our outer appearance has no real weight, no merit in the end; it’s just external dressing and has no substance. Trees are more than just leaves and we are more than appearances.

You will experience distressing situations on the job and they may leave you with distressing memories. Conducting a self-inventory can help you put things in perspective. At first, in your self-inventory, you may find yourself focusing on the negatives, however don’t forget the positives. Someone you trust can help you with the positives. Like a tree, try to stay anchored to earth while still reaching toward the sky.

Stay safe.

Bruce Lacillade is retired from the Burlington Fire Department in Ontario, where he spent 10 years on the floor as a firefighter and the next 15 years as an inspector in fire prevention. He’s also a U.S. Navy veteran and the chaplain for the American Legion in Ontario and the United Council of Veterans (Hamilton and area). Bruce helps first responders, military personnel, veterans, and their families deal with what he calls moral injuries, or internal conflicts. Contact Bruce at

March 23, 2015 
By Bruce Lacillade

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