Oh, Rob, you gorgeous fool. If only you were right.

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To put it lightly, it’s been a heavy news week. From IEDs in Boston, ricin-laced letters and last night’s explosion leveling a small town just north of Waco, Texas (just 2 days prior to the 20th anniversary of the Branch Davidian siege) to the US Senate voting against expanded background checks for firearms and reinstating the 1994 semi-automatic weapons ban… it’s like information overload. Right now, tempers are high because everywhere you turn you run into powerlessness. Confusion and fear leads to anarchy. No one knows what to do, and we wait for someone strong to make a stand so that we can follow their lead.

I have great admiration for first responders and medical professionals during these times and feel we could all learn from their example. While I sit stunned, staring at my TV saying “How could this happen?” hundreds of people statewide rush to the scene or man their stations in nearby hospitals so that they can be of service. For these individuals, there is no time to mourn, no time to search for a cause. There is only the need for action – to stop the hemorrhaging and salvage what they can. They must divorce themselves from their emotions and sacrifice themselves to be of service to those in their community. And they don’t do it for fame or recognition or to further a political agenda… they do it because it has to be done.

The closest I have come to being one of these first responders occurred in high school when one of my classmates attempted suicide (and from what I remember, she very nearly succeeded). While we were friendly, I was not close with her, though some of my friends were and they were greatly affected by the event. My then boyfriend and I spent the next couple of days consoling our friends, taking on their grief so it wasn’t so heavy on their shoulders alone. At the end of those days, we took a few minutes for ourselves so that we could decompress and we just sat and cried out all the pain of our friends. I felt like I was John Coffey with tears instead of illness.

In today’s world, where news becomes worldwide in a matter of moments, our heartstrings are played like fiddles. We ache with empathy for others and long to be of help somehow, but how? What do I do from here? In Boston, hospitals were turning away people wanting to give blood because they already had more than they could take. In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, so many toys were donated that the people of Sandy Hook had to rent out storage and then organize ways to donate the excess to others in need elsewhere. We don’t want to feel powerless. We WANT to help in any way we can. And many times we end up making very bad decisions in effort to assuage that burning desire to become someone’s John Coffey.

When we feel weak and powerless, we look to someone strong to lead. Hoping to find a General Honoré a la Katrina, instead we are greeted by celebrities and politicians flying in like Mighty Mouse: “Here I come to save the day!” Let me tell you right now: true heroes keep their heads down in times of trouble. True heroes get dirty when times are tough; they aren’t out there standing in the spotlight. Whenever I see an actor speaking up in times of tragedy, I wonder what new movie he’s got coming out. Even worse is finding a politician shaking his head over a deadly scene because next you know he’s going to use our pain to introduce new legislation. And we are all too eager to jump on board… all because we don’t know how we can help and here is someone who looks like he knows what he’s doing.

I commend the Senate, keeping their heads about them to make a tough decision during such distracting times. No matter how you feel about guns, this was a vote over legislation introduced in the wake of one of our worst tragedies in recent times… it was reactionary and based in fear. Today, as we imagine ourselves living in the “end times” because of such a heavy news week, many are outraged at this decision. My take is this: Good decisions are never made in haste or under emotional duress. Even the right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.

Stop looking to Hollywood and Washington when things get rough. Heroes and leaders will only be found in the trenches, not standing in the spotlight miles away. Don’t let these people decide where you stand and how you act. Better yet, be your own hero. Get down in the mess of it and become someone’s John Coffey. Once the dust has settled, we can talk about causes and solutions, but today we need to be surgeons with steady hands to excise the emotional wounds our neighbors have sustained. 

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5 responses to “Oh, Rob, you gorgeous fool. If only you were right.”

  1. Tracy Goodwin says :

    Oh so true. We want to come forth and help yet frequently we don’t know how. Most of us just want a little direction when something like this happens because we don’t know what to do. Given that direction many will jump aboard and help.

    What we need is to get involved in an organization that helps like the Red Cross so that in these times we can do something to help those in need. Also we as individuals need to develop skills that can help others. I am a volunteer first responder so that if something happens locally I can try to help. EMS certification is not hard and many could do it if they wanted to. Also joining a volunteer fire department or Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) or any other aid organization can allow you to help.

    Furthermore training either through a group or a certification can provide you the knowledge and skills to react in a bad situation. It can allow you to identify the correct course of action and begin taking it without having to seek direction from another.

    We need to encourage people to develop skills and connections when things are good so that when things are bad they are prepared to help. We need to get more people to be prepared to help so that they can when help is needed. We never know when or where something will occur so we never know who might be there. You want to be ready in case you are the one standing there in the emergency.

    People seek out leaders in an emergency so let prepare ourselves to be those leaders.

    • littleman031103 says :

      Thank you for becoming a volunteer.

      There are many ways we can help in times of need, but we will never know unless we ask. There are children there in need of babysitters. I’m sure folks would appreciate a nice hot meal or even just a hug. Hell, who can’t work a broom? More importantly, where is the everyday need within our own communities? Why wait for a tragedy to be a hero when there’s someone nearby who could desperately use a hand? How lovely would this world be if we all looked inside to find our heroes daily?

  2. JWilliams says :

    It was the time release drugs that nearly got her. The hospital had her fairly well stabilized before those kicked in. They induced a coma for most of a week to try to let her heal, but she ultimately wound up with brain damage. And for us, it was much like she had died because we never saw her again. My dad took me up to see her while she was in the coma. I didn’t know what to say, and that was the last I saw her.

    I got pulled out of class to be with my roommate who had been very close to her before high school. I didn’t even know what had happened, I was just told to go be with my roommate because she needed me.

    We just met with a school rep this week and talked about our experience there, and so many of these memories were brought up.

    • littleman031103 says :

      Well, I certainly know that feeling. When recounting tales from my senior year, I often say that was when Gregory died because that’s exactly what it felt like. And yeah, those countless hospital visits were rough. I wouldn’t have missed a single one, but they certainly took their toll on me.

    • littleman031103 says :

      I don’t mean to sound bitter. I just wanted to echo your sentiment about how difficult these sorts of situations can be for young folks. I’m grateful we had counselors on hand and friends to lean on.

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