I was feeling a little (okay, a lot) sorry for myself today. I work alone. When Chris is travelling, I live alone. And I often want to do things and can’t find someone to do them with so I end up doing things alone.
All the while I have friends on the other side of the world that I’d love to be spending time with and vice versa.
Not unlike other days, I reached out to a few of them. Phoned one, no answer. Phoned another, she was sleeping, Got on messenger and chatted to one who was also feeling a bit down, but we both felt better after connecting even ever so briefly.
The “Doing It Different” for today comes from the more detailed messenger conversation I had with a long-time friend. While having the discussion wasn’t different for us – we still chat often enough and see each other when in the same country.
What was different was the incredibly moving perspective I gained from having this discussion.
My friend is one of the many people who in just about every country around the world goes to work, and in so doing, actually works for all of us. This person is one of the collective group we refer to as, “emergency service personnel”. These are the men and women who are police, firefighters, ambulance attendants, 911 call takers, dispatchers who are on the front lines protecting us from and helping the rest of us deal with, danger and harm.
But where do they go when they need protecting?
There is no doubt that this group and doctors and nurses probably have the toughest of jobs. On a daily basis, they get glimpses into the underbelly, into the lowest and worst of humanity that they just can’t “unsee”. The irony is that many of them, like my friend, are motivated by, and shining examples of, the exact opposite. They are good, loving, helpful people with big hearts, who want to make a difference, who want to save a life, who work every day to make this a better world for the rest of us.
I’ll bet people in this group often see and deal with more unpleasantness in a day or a week, than the rest of us do in years, if not throughout a lifetime. And the rest of us usually don’t even give them a second thought… until, of course, we need them!
Hopefully, most emergency service workers can deal with most of what happens on most days. But there are times, where it all becomes far too much for their big loving hearts, too much for their broad responsible shoulders, too much for them to handle, times when it all goes horribly wrong.
Sometimes they get very broken by their jobs. Their lives, relationships, routines, all get tossed upside down.
And the rest of us, go on our merry little ways, just assuming that they will always be there to serve us, protect us, help us, direct us when we need it.
But at what cost to them? What happens when they’re the ones who need the help?
From my discussion today I learned that my friend after dealing with a particularly tough few years, personally, was doing her job, and that day came for her.
My friend is both a 911 (000) call taker and police dispatcher and has been doing this for decades.
One night last year, she took a call that changed her. In the middle of her shift a call came in that would catapult her into a hurricane of emotions, that would be that extreme call that led to one bad thing after another – one that would send her to the place where should would, in her words, “Lose her shit!”
The caller had dialled 911. My friend took the call. The caller said, “I just killed my family.” That information alone was enough to send a person to the edge, however, she admitted that this had been bad enough, but the push that actually sent her over, came later – after dispatching police, she stayed on the line with the caller. She spoke with him, giving him instructions, and the line remained open and she heard the police arrive. Then she overheard officers tell the man to hang up from the 911 call.
But, he didn’t just click the phone and end the call. He came back on the phone with my friend and said, “Thank you for helping me.”
Let me repeat this. In the course of a few minutes, she has just heard from the same man, “I have just killed my family.” And, “Thank you for helping me.”
If this isn’t a glimpse into the complexity of humanity I do not know what is.
I cannot properly articulate everything that hearing this story has stirred up in me, but I know one thing for sure.
We owe our emergency service workers a HUGE debt of gratitude. And we don’t think about, talk about, take care of, or acknowledge this debt nearly often enough.
I am going to make a public pledge that whenever I can from this day forward, that I will make an effort to be far more aware, far more supportive, and far more openly thankful to each and every one of them, for we would be lost without them.
So thank you to my dear friend for sharing your story. I hope that you heal and heal fully. I hope that you get the help, support, and love that you need to be whole again.
I am honoured that you agreed to let me tell your story, I am hopeful that you will be able to return to your prior glory and I am blessed to have you in my life. And I am proud of you and the work you do.
We should all be grateful for those around the planet who face the front lines and protect the rest us so we can go on with our lives.
Perhaps our lives will include a little more acknowledgement and gratitude for the fabulous job you do for us every day.
Maybe that could be YOUR “do it different” someday soon.