I collect contemporary art and purchased a painting by Grace Slick in January. Since art is an extension of the soul, I like to meet an artist before I acquire a piece. I was exhilarated when I got the rare opportunity to have an incredible conversation with Grace Slick.

I have several godchildren, and I’ve made a conscious effort to expand their horizons in all aspects of life, including music. They’re very well versed in the arts and don’t limit themselves to being spoon-fed by disc jockeys repeatedly playing the Top 40. When I shared my experience with Grace Slick with them, I could not hide my excitement about that day.

I took them out to lunch with a couple of their friends from school, and they were comparing their respective music collections to see who had the best. One of them said, “I’ve got Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.” His sister said, “I’ve got Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock.” His friend said, “That’s nothing, kiddo. I’ve got Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel.” I sensed I was in the company of a set of contestants on the new edition of “Name That Tune.” When they ran out of albums to recite, I gently smiled with the glee from the sense of impending victory as I said, “I’ve got Pink Floyd’s The Wall on wax.”

All of them had the look of awe on their faces and buried their heads in the palms of their hands in defeat except for the youngest one of their friends who had joined us. After a brief pause of silence, he innocently asked, “Carol, why would anyone want a wall on wax?” At that moment I realized this kid had never seen a record album in his life. I couldn’t hide from that fact that even though I may feel 16 years old in my mind, I’m getting old faster than I ever dreamed.

I’ve always preached that a career isn’t complete unless one has dedicated time to mentorship. Everyone knows retirement planning is an important part of career management. If you plan properly, the future will be bright. If not, all your efforts during your career may be for naught. Likewise, the creation of a legacy requires the conscious incorporation of mentorship within your career. The leaders of today will become vague memories if they fail to plant the seeds for the generation that will follow them.

Start EMS education early
As we look up from our administrative desks, the rookies and newly hired personnel enter the stations looking fresh and eager like kids on their first day of school. We know they will bond like brothers. Despite the journeys during their respective careers, they’ll remain close and have a special place in their heart for the colleagues with whom they shared day #1 on the job. As you review your monthly planner, which is more than likely covered with ink and packed to the gills with meetings, what have you done to mentor potential future EMS providers and to ensure new recruits continue to cross the thresholds of your institution? Mentorship should be a high priority, regardless of your position in the hierarchy of EMS.

Wonderful opportunities exist where high school students can participate in EMS-related activities. The Explorer programs, which allow high school and middle school students to work shoulder-to-shoulder with prehospital care providers, are an indispensable avenue that provides a realistic experience in daily EMS operations and activities. In my opinion, this isn’t enough. We should start sharing our career experiences with younger children, and I’m grateful that many of us do. For those who doubt what I say, turn on the evening news. Broadcasts of extremist groups recruiting and training children and adolescents to join organizations for missions of hatred and violence are becoming more frequent. Does your living room couch still feel as comfortably numb as when you sat first sat down to watch the evening news? Every time I see this on TV, I’m invigorated once again to call a school principal and schedule myself for another opportunity to educate our youth. Can you imagine the armies of EMS providers committed to helping others that could be created if each and every one of us participated in at least one career day each year?

I’ve always enjoyed participating in school career days. Although most discussions of the workplace occur in high schools, my favorite venue is the elementary school classroom, where the bright eyes of kindergartners fill a room with pure wonder and light. Their minds are clean slates and are a wonderful place to sow the notion of becoming a health care provider. After I complete my lecture about the medical field, I always give public safety messages about wearing bicycle helmets and seatbelts and have a contest in which the winner receives a stethoscope. I absolutely love the look of excitement and discovery in the eyes of a child who listens to a heartbeat through a stethoscope for the first time. The same two notes of a heartbeat bring a similar level of excitement to the EMS provider who hears them via his stethoscope following a successful resuscitation he facilitated. The repetitive syncopated rhythm of those two simple notes is an exquisite composition within the symphony of life.

Pass your baton
My father always compared life to a relay and reminded me that ultimately, everyone has to pass the baton at the end of the road. Dependent upon your ability as a leader and the amount of time you devote to molding your replacement, you’ll pass the baton downward, horizontally or upward. Those who served tirelessly as mentors will be able to joyfully stretch their arms to the sky to pass the baton upward to the next generation, and thus, create a legacy.

Miles Davis was a jazz pioneer, yet his legacy continues to touch and influence people beyond the grave as his work is featured in any introductory jazz class worth its salt. Herbie Hancock at the spry age of 67 has always been and continues to be light years ahead of his time, yet he has mentored thousands of aspiring young musicians through his involvement in the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Peter Gabriel is 58, yet he continues to have a burning fire of experimental creativity and kinetic energy in his music and his spirit. Grace Slick is 68 with a full head of white hair, yet she continues to be a timeless icon in arts through her painting and her music. All serve as examples that it’s high time for everyone to get off of the couch and make a positive contribution to the generations of the future.

As silver strands invade your scalp, don’t neglect to share your golden wisdom with our youth in the form of mentorship before you inevitably wake up on the wrong side of the grass. After all, the true measure of a man isn’t determined by how tall he stands but by how many times he kneels down to help a child. Mentorship is the crowning touch of an exemplary platinum career.

Got wax?