Guest Columnist

Discovery and exploration of “life’s firsts” are a wondrous part of life. Whether you are 5-years-old or 105-years-old, new discoveries are the best fun of living. The next first is only moments away and recognizing them will forever keep us young and enthusiastic.

Our first love is the beginning of adult life. It is that time of our lives when we absorb emotions we had never experienced before. It begins our rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. For me it was my first encounter with such intense feelings. It was a joyous and fun-filled time of my life. Happily, many more wondrous moments would follow. There would be other loves and the births of my three children followed by endless other firsts.

I recall the first time I awakened at 4:30 a.m., got dressed, met my pal Jimmy and began delivering the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the dark. It was very scary, but we soon got acclimated to the task and enjoyed the rewards of overcoming our fear, being independent for the first time and making the first money of our lives.

I similarly recall my first solo flight as the pilot in command of an aircraft and the exhilaration of conquering a genuine fear of being thousands of feet in the air with only my own wits to bring me safely back to earth. Discovery of the courage of manhood was most satisfying.

Specific firsts and specific discoveries serve to guide us throughout our lives. The first time I became a member of a larger and significant community was my four years of high school at Cleveland Cathedral Latin High School. I was exposed to and taught about emotional commitment to a community of people who shared the same values I held.

We did not have bullies at our school. We did not have cliques that disliked each other. What we did have were 600 boys who rallied around both the school and each other. We were emotionally committed to each other and the school. It was “all for one and one for all.” We were encouraged to be sharing and generous with our time and our works.

When you accept an idea and an ideal and you make an emotional investment in them, you experience the true feel of community. Few things in life are more rewarding than making an emotional commitment to a task at hand. It is the major reason many communities require that their public officials live in the community they serve. Nothing substitutes for an emotional commitment to the community you serve. Easter egg hunts don’t get cancelled if you live in the community you serve. You are always an active participant, not merely an observer.

The last first I will speak of relates to my father. I believe it was Mark Twain who queried how his father could have been so dumb when he was growing up and so smart just a few years later. I never realized at the time what a great gift my dad had given me. He showed me how to weave my way through life without fear and without guilt.

He was a man of conscience. He never told a lie, he never kept score and his generosity was saintly. It was not until I was well into my adult life that I was able to reflect upon the lessons he so modestly showed me by the way he lived his life. I truly regret that neither my wife nor my children ever really knew him.

Life is a continuum; so, too, are the firsts of that life. We must all stay alert and allow no first to elude us. The next first is only moments away.

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