What’s in Your Cup?  

You can be sure of this: life will deliver bumps, & how you respond makes all the difference

By Sam DiGiovanna  |   Dec 19, 2018

Nothing beats a good cup of coffee at the station, sharing stories with the members of your department during shift change. 

But the other day I read an anecdote on social media that made me think a little more deeply about this tradition.  

You’re holding your cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.

 Why did you spill the coffee? “Well, because someone bumped into me, of course!”

Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out. Therefore, when life comes along and bumps or shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out.

I’d never really thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense. As first responders, we can have a lot brewing in our cups. When life gets tough, what spills out of you?

Is it …

Gratitude for being able to serve in one of the best jobs in the world, that gives back by allowing us to make a difference, even as it challenges us every day? Or have you allowed frustrations about the job to build up into resentment or callousness, leaving you less empathetic to the people you encounter?

Peaceful acceptance of your own—and other people’s—shortcomings, knowing that you have a lot to give even while there’s a lot you need to work on? Or do you feel self-loathing or contempt of others, unable to work through weaknesses, demanding perfection of yourself and others?

Humility that keeps your ego in check, grounding you in what’s right and preventing you from being corrupted by any power you wield? Or have you allowed entitlement to creep in, justifying that you deserve certain things, you work harder than others, you have overcome more obstacles than most?

Encouragement and positivity toward others, confident enough in your abilities that you not only let others have their accolades, you actually want them to succeed—and you work to make it happen? Or do you find yourself ruled by pettiness, feeling like other people’s successes take away from your own, dragging your department down because you can’t focus on what’s good for the organization as a whole?


What’s brewing in your cup? You get to choose! During the hectic holiday times, it’s easy for people to act uncivil, self-absorbed, even greedy. Instead, let’s fill our cups with gratitude, patience, forgiveness, and words of affirmation along with kindness toward others. It’s easy—and about as cheap as a cup of coffee!

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Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. He also is a consultant for Lexipol Fire Services.
Sam DiGiovanna

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