Thank You for Your Service

THANK YOU
FOR YOUR SERVICE

WHAT MAKES A HERO?

WHY LIVING BY OUR VALUES IS THE MOST IMPACTFUL WAY TO LIVE

There are some moments in our lives when we’re given a chance to unveil who we are at our core. Experiences we live through that bring out the best in us and, sometimes, the worst. These moments are rare, and thankfully so, because if we were to encounter them daily, we would very likely go bat shit crazy. These are moments that usually arise out of the blue, in the most unexpected of times, for which we are almost never prepared.

Can you think of a such a moment in your life? I bet you can think of a few.

The time you witnessed an accident on the road and rushed over to help the victims, or maybe just watched from afar in horror.

The time the elevator got stuck in between floors and even though you’re claustrophobic, did your best to calm the neighbour who was freaking out… or perhaps the time you freaked out in that situation.

The time you listened to a stranger on the street begging for immediate help and did what you could, or maybe ignored and side-stepped them and went on about your business.

The time you found out your loved one had an aggressive form of cancer and decided then and there to hold it together for them and the family and find a way to encourage resilience and stay positive.

The time your friend got into some trouble in a bar, and you stepped in to defend them, no matter how fierce or big the opposition was. Or maybe you made yourself very small and took refuge in a corner, pleading for your friend to just walk away already…

The time someone tried to mug you, but you defended yourself no matter what, and even took a few punches in the altercation. Or that same incident where instead you handed everything over, fell to your knees and begged to be left alone.

The time when your colleague at work said something displeasing and you corrected them, even though it meant it might be awkward going forward. Or maybe you ignored it, shrugged it off and carried on as normal.

The time there was a national emergency and you jumped out of the sofa to find the nearest volunteer centre to do anything you could to help, or perhaps flipped the channel and looked for a feel-good programme to lift your spirits.

The time you came to defend a complete stranger who was being abused in the street, regardless of what had happened. You just knew that you had to stand up for them and help alleviate the problem, maybe even save their life.

These moments happen every day, millions of times around the globe. Sometimes, they happen to us. We just happen to be at that place, at that time.  And when they do, we discover what our values are and we either take action, or we don’t.

If we take action, perhaps we’re being foolish. We may be putting ourselves in harm’s way or worsening the situation. Perhaps we’re being too nosy, too involved and out of line. Perhaps we’re embarrassing someone, or ourselves. Perhaps we’re sacrificing our reputation or our physical and mental health. Perhaps we pay the ultimate price. Similarly, if we take action, maybe we make a difference. Maybe we do some good. Maybe we save a life. Maybe we become protectors of society…

Here’s the thing… Or at least, I think here’s the thing… I would bet my last penny that if someone you cared about needed help, no matter how dangerous a situation might be, you’d show up for them. And I also bet that if a stranger needed assistance, and the chances of you getting hurt were next to zero, you’d also be there in a flash. I like to think I’m right about this because I like to believe everyone feels they have a duty of care towards everyone else in this world. That’s just my belief, and there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.

But unless you’re being paid to serve and protect, or are fully equipped for this kind of situation, the chances that you’ll step into a shoot-out to save a child’s life is really minimal… that’s just fact. They’re not zero though, some people would do anything to make the world as right as possible, but those people are incredibly rare. The price is just too high to pay for a total stranger. And there is never any price too high to pay to protect and help those we love and care about.

So, it seems it all depends on who is at stake, and how risky the situation might be. Here’s the other thing… I believe that, based on this, there is no right or wrong. We’re all just tied to what our values are according to that specific moment, tied to the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is human nature to protect ourselves and make safe judgment calls depending on how close we are to a certain situation and how emotionally involved we are in it. In my opinion, a coward is the person who couldn’t be more emotionally involved but takes no action, and a hero is the person who takes action regardless. Heroes are rare, and when they show up, they make an everlasting impact on society. Sometimes they come in groups, but most of the time, individually. They are the people about whom books are written, those whom movies are made of. They are also the people that often choose to remain anonymous, live in humility and without whom, the world would be a much darker place.

So why the hell am I writing about all of this, you may ask. Well, I’ve had a few days to think about a recent episode I witnessed.

A potentially dangerous and mentally unstable man managed to make his way to my workplace and instilled fear in all the employees present. It was a surreal experience, this man was repeatedly yelling that there was a bomb in the office, punching the glass front door over and over with all his might to get inside, physically threatening numerous employees who just happened to be on the wrong side of that glass door, sizing them up, provoking them and getting ready to fight them. This very heavy, tall, and imposing intruder made himself heard and seen and his energy was palpable. He was unpredictable in his behaviour and senseless in his words. It felt as though he would stop at nothing to accomplish what he came to do, which remains unclear. I witnessed some employees trying to assess and calm the situation, some came face to face with him. Thankfully, The Universe (or God, or whatever/whoever you believe in), was on the lookout for everyone involved that morning. No one got hurt, no one was physically scarred, but I think some might have been scarred emotionally. What I witnessed that morning was strength and bravery in numbers, and an unwavering sense of care and duty for others in one, which is what inspired me for this post. Someone from my company showed up for everyone else. This person put themselves directly in harm’s way, without any way of knowing what the consequences might be. This person took it upon themselves to protect everyone else, by making themselves the spotlight in the eyes of the intruder. This person found themselves in a position where they felt incapable of not taking action and followed through to the very last minute. This person is a parent. This person is a strong and inspiring woman. This person is a senior member of the HR team. This person is a hero for many of us at the company. She managed to diffuse the situation, distract and engage the intruder until the police arrived, remained calm and professional throughout and kept everyone present safe. She did all this with a smile on her face, and a body language you’d expect her to display on a sunny Sunday afternoon walk in the park. I’m certain that it was very difficult to do all of this, and that it was an incredibly stressful experience for her. But she did it anyway. Why? Because she was emotionally involved and felt a sense of protectiveness over other employees. Could it have cost her her life? Possibly. Could it have turned out terribly wrong? Of course. Regardless, this person behaved in a way that was true to her values in that moment, stood up for what she believed was right, and followed through no matter what the consequences might have been. She stayed the course and not once thought to abandon ship and let someone else deal with the problem. She showed up beautifully for the people she cared about, putting their safety first, and hers last. This is bravery at its best. This person is a hero, whether she knows it or not. For this person, I am incredibly grateful. I am inspired to do better in my life because of what this person did.

I’ll be honest (as I always try to be) … when I came face to face with this menacing man, I did consider how one of my options was to just dash down the emergency escape stairwell as fast as I could and leave the problem for someone else to figure out. As this man stared me down and tried to instigate a fight, I thought of my three kids and my wife, and how none of this would be worth not seeing them again. Yet somehow, my sense of protectiveness was stronger than me, and being in a position to make a difference at that exact moment meant there was no way I was about to let go of my values or let anyone down. This story, by the way, DOES NOT make me a hero, it just makes me ME, at my very core.

It’s interesting to think back to what happened right after the incident took place. I entered into the office space and was met by a large group of almost everyone who was in the office that morning and had seen the scene unfold from the other side of the glass wall. While I’m sure everyones’ intentions were good and kind, I can’t help but to wonder if their ‘I would haves’ and ‘If I had been theres’ were realistic or true. We like to think of ourselves as people who automatically show up in line with our values, as unwavering helpers of society – as strong, moral, fair, brave and protective individuals – but until push comes to shove and we find ourselves faced with a situation that really tests us, we can’t really know what we’ll do. Until we’re fully immersed in such an uncomfortable and surreal episode, we can’t fathom how emotionally involved we’ll be, even if we like to think we know ourselves in and out. I suppose this is a very good example of whether we just ‘talk the talk’, or ‘walk the walk’. One thing that’s for sure – when people come to you after such an episode to check up on your state – physical, mental or emotional – that’s a pretty strong indication of where peoples’ values lie.

It’s always OK to make mistakes, it’s always OK to fail at things. It’s OK to change our minds and try something else. It’s OK to evolve and learn as we go. But it’s imperative that we live by our values and show up for them and with them when the time comes. It’s not always black and white, sometimes it can be scary, daunting, unpredictable, unsafe and dangerous. Other times it can be easier and a more obvious thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do. Just remember that sometimes, some peoples’ values might not be in line with yours, and that is more than OK. We all show up at different times in different ways, for each other and ourselves… as long as we listen to our gut and lean towards what the hero in us would do, not the coward.

So, be safe out there, dear readers, and live by what you know is true for you. This is how we make a difference in the world, stand up for what we believe in and care about, protect those we love and spend quality time with, and who knows, you just might save some lives if you do.

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