Funny thing about life: a registered letter, phone call, or knock on the door in the middle of the night can derail the best laid plans.

Life’s journey can take us around turns and lead us down pathways we never could imagine for ourselves – some good and some not so good.

The good stuff anyone can take. Lessons are learned and character is built from how one handles the bad stuff, and we draw upon both of those to guide us through the rest of our lives. At least that’s what Dad always said. It’s one of the many lessons Dad taught us while growing up at 110 Flamingo Street.
Unfortunately, I never really learned it until much later.

After the first week we moved in, Down the Street Bully Brad knocked me off my bike and into the ditch. It was his special way of welcoming me to the neighborhood. With torn clothes and bloody knees, I limped home and into the kitchen. After a hug to make things all better, Mom set about gently cleaning all the scrapes with a cool washcloth. All the while, Dad gave one of his classic pep talks.

“You know, son, out of everything bad something good comes. You just have to be able to see what it is.”

At the time all I could see was my busted bike on the lawn, torn pants, and bloody knees. It was the first time I realized my dad didn’t have all the answers. In fact, sometimes he really didn’t know what he was talking about. Bad stuff was just that: bad stuff. How could anything good come out of bad?

It’s kinda like a rotten apple. No matter what you’re saying to yourself as you eat it, it’s still rotten. Even though you eventually win the bet with your brothers – which is good – in about two hours things will get really bad. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Bad stuff happens to bad people, but also to the good ones. As a firefighter for the last 27 years, I’ve had a unique opportunity to see this occur on any given day or night I’ve reported to work. People’s lives can take a different pathway in an instant. With training and dedication, fellow firefighters, law enforcement officers, and hospital staff try to make something good come out of something bad.

Sometimes the bad is overwhelming.

It’s been 11 years since two planes crashed into two buildings and changed lives forever. Not just for firefighters, but for an entire nation. The ripple effects are still felt even today. It’s one of the reasons The Boy is now a firefighter and paramedic. Seems he too wants to help turn someone’s bad day into good.

My life was also changed by 9/11. You see, I was on duty at the fire station that morning. Once I got home, I did something I’d never done before. I started to write.

Today marks 11 years this paper has run my column — 572 weeks. One day, I’ll climb on my fire truck for the last time, but be assured — every Friday I’ll be right here with stories about The Wife, The Boy, and all the kids from Flamingo Street.

Hopefully I’ll add a little humor to your Fridays and, in a small way, help make a few of your bad days not so bad.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is saferick@bellsouth.net. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]