No, this isn’t a post about House 2 direct mail packs. I’ll save that for another day. In the pass two weeks I have been shaken by two events that have reminded me what “this” is all about.
“This” being the work we do, the lives we lead.
I mentioned I was away on vacation just over a week ago in Mexico. We stayed at a gorgeous resort just south of Cancun where the sun shined every day and the people who worked there did their best to bring a smile to your face. We were relaxing with a book and drink late in the afternoon of our second day when I noticed almost everyone on the beach standing and looking over my shoulder. As I stood and turned, I could see a man that was in obvious distress and clinging to the ropes and buoys that lined the back end of the swimming zone, waves crashing in over his head. The beach lifeguard was just getting to him. The undertow along our beach had been quite strong and obviously this man had gotten pulled out further than he wanted.
As someone who almost drown in Costa Rica years ago due to an undertow, I knew exactly the sorts of thoughts and panic that would be going through his mind as he wondered how he was going to get out of this situation. The life guard reached him as we watched was able to bring the terrified man, somehow, back into the beach. As they made their way up away from the water, most people clapped and then sat back down to their drinks, as did I. Not long after I put my headphones back on, I could hear the shrill of whistles and noticed a number of resort staff running pass us across the sand.
The man had collapsed into the sand and the lifeguard who brought him out was performing CPR on him. We stood, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, holding our breaths. Some people moved closer for a better look, some rushed to help if they could, some people talked about what was happening. Tara and I stood silent hoping that they would be able to do more than CPR. Tara was a former lifeguard and we both have experience at the YMCA and know the first 10 – 15 minutes are critical especially if someone has a heart attack.
We watched and waited.
The Mexican EMS took almost 30 minutes to arrive by which point we all knew it was too late. People slowly left the beach in shock, the young man’s widow screaming at EMS to help as they walked away. Apparently he was a Canadian from Guelph, 42 years old on a relaxing vacation with his wife, kids at home with relatives.
A defibrillator on that beach would have likely saved that man’s life. And we told the resort staff on check out that we were deeply disturbed by the lack of response to this man who needed help – help that never came.
The second event is the shocking passing of our colleague James Julien. James, Founder of Public Outreach, was a young man as well. He was in Australia visiting colleagues and having a vacation. He suffered a severe stroke and passed away two days later on the 20th of February. Everyone I know is left speechless by his passing.
The two events have moved me to the core. Reminders that time here may be long or not long enough. They are reminders to me to work my ass off to help those who need it and to make some sort of difference in this world. To have some sort of effect so no matter if my time is long or not – I will have done something… They are reminders to love the things that my two small girls do to annoy me and hold them as much as I can. To appreciate those people who surround me and the joy they bring to my life.
I respect my colleague Kimberley MacKenzie who has published her very own personal mission statement on her blog. It reads, “I value integrity, generosity, honesty and empathy. I will strive to surround myself with people who share these values. Before I die I want my children to see me as a hero who made a significant contribution to a healthier, richer and more humane planet than the one I inherited.”
I haven’t written mine down yet, not on paper anyhow, but today I feel closer to defining myself with a personal mission statement, especially as I reflect on these events.
I don’t strive to be a hero, but I feel power and pride in the path I have chosen.
We are world and sector full of people trying to make small differences. And that is an amazing thing.