One spring day six or seven years ago, I drove back into the camp I worked at and noticed two people standing on the bridge across the creek. The bridge was on the outskirts of camp, so it was very rare to see anyone there.
Me: “What are you two doing?”
Them: “We’re watching for a ten foot wall of water that’s coming our way.”
Someone had called the camp office to say the creek was blocked at a bridge upstream and that the bridge was going to collapse at any minute and unleash a ten foot wall of water. And it was COMING OUR WAY!
For reference, the creek entered the camp’s 150 acre lake before coming out the other side to form the stream that our camp bridge spanned. The bridge where staff were watching out for a ten foot wall of water.
I laughed and explained that even if there was a ten foot wall of water coming, it would not translate into anything huge on our side of the lake because the lake would absorb that initial rush. They weren’t convinced. They had been given walkie talkies, so it was obviously serious.
Pulling up next to the camp office, I walked in to find it empty except for one person who was manning the phone to hear the latest from the emergency. I then headed over to the dining hall where my boss, the camp director, was holding an urgent staff meeting on the back deck to explain the evacuation plans.
For more reference, most of the camp (including all of the buildings) were more than ten feet above water level.
I asked if I could speak to the director and tried to explain some basic spatial physics. I managed to convince him that evacuation was not required. Everyone calmed down. Later that night as I was sitting in an emergency room for a completely unrelated incident, camp was evacuated . Three hundred kids were sent home, many of them lived more than two hours away. In the morning, the lake’s level had increased by six inches
I share this story, because it is important to keep calm when faced with a situation that might require heroic action.
Panicking can lead to misjudgment of the gravity of a situation. Panicking can create a paralysis. Panicking can negatively effect those around you – particularly if you’re in a leadership position.
A panicked person is not going to help someone who needs a hero. In fact, a panicked person can further harm someone who needs a hero, perhaps requiring more heroes.
When something surprising happens, force yourself to take a few seconds to consider the thoughts that are flying through your head. Ask yourself where those thoughts are coming from and what their effect might be. Ask yourself if the information you’re receiving is accurate. Ask yourself if there really is any reason to panic. There rarely is. Choose to do something helpful instead.
Quest Work: (what is this?) When was the last time you panicked? In retrospect, what could you have changed about that situation? Answer in the comments.