We are All Significant
by Rob Cannon
On July 1, 2012 a North Carolina Air National Guard C-130 crashed while on a mission to perform low-altitude firefighting drops on the White Draw wildfire in the western United States. Four of our brave servicemen were killed, and two more were critically injured.
One of the crew-members who lost his life was a military firefighter named MSGT. Robert Cannon of Charlotte, NC.
Here are some interesting coincidences:
- I'm also a firefighter.
- I'm also a serviceman.
- I was recently stationed at the airport with the North Carolina Air National Guard.
- I live in Charlotte.
- And my name is also Robert Cannon.
As you might imagine, there was some initial confusion about whether or not I was on that plane, especially since I was out of town when the tragedy occurred. In fact, a news van came down my street and informed my neighbors that I'd been killed in the crash. My neighbors cried. My church and workplace received calls from many people wondering what they could do.
Seeing my own name in black and white, under these tragic circumstances, has given me a somewhat unique opportunity to reflect on life and death, and more specifically my own life and death. Here are some things that come to my mind after a somewhat surreal week:
We Are All Significant!
I've been reminded that each of us affect others in ways we don't even realize. Our lives are important in ways we can't understand. Today - yes, this very day - someone that you haven't seen in decades is thinking of you.. They face challenges and recall your example. They need a smile and think of you. Though they may be far away, and somewhat removed from your immediate life, your departure will be very significant for them. Right now, as you read this, you are cared about more than you know.
Get Your Act Together Now!
Chances are we will all live quiet, long lives with "normal" deaths (whatever that is). But not another second is guaranteed. Are we ready to go? Are our "affairs" in order? Do your best to be prepared for a demise that could happen at ANY MOMENT.
Don't Waste Time!
Perhaps most importantly, as I read "Robert Cannon" — a name that I now share with a true hero — over and over again on websites and in the paper, I am left to contemplate, "Am I 'leaving it all on the field' each and every day? Do I know my purpose and am I making it happen with the time, talent and treasure that have been entrusted to me?" If you don't have a purpose now is the time to figure it out, and to move toward the demands and opportunities of your purpose.
My purpose you ask? Just love. My faith spells that out to me in a couple of short sentences that were cited as the greatest of all:
Love God. Love your neighbor.
It's that simple.
But it's also that complicated. Because we are left to somehow define, and then create, something as complicated as "love." What is love?
I read MSGT. Robert Cannon's obituary today. Among other things it described him as a "friendly, helpful, committed, adventurous and family-oriented man." That sounds like love to me.
I went on to read the obituaries of the other crewmen. Here are words associated with these men:
Faithful, service, blessing, amazing, kind, passionate, thoughtful, devoted, family, beautiful, children, grandchildren, celebrating, missionary, work.
That sounds a lot like love too.
Ultimately love is all these things and more. It's about finding the someones and the somethings that are bigger than self. If you want to be a great leader you've got to explore your purpose, and love is the cornerstone. What does love mean to you as a leader? Is love included in your purpose? If not, what are you here for? Now is the time to know.