At the end of March, when it was still cold, my wife and I were sitting near the pond with our nearly two-year old daughter. While our daughter was diligently collecting stones and then throwing them in the water, I asked my wife, “Have you thought about what you’ll do if she falls in?”
My wife took it as a negative reflection on her parenting skills – allowing the kid too close to the edge. I was merely asking if she had thought it through because I had done so many times before on previous rock-throwing outings.
The pond is man-made, so has a stacked-rock edge that’s easy to stand on. Pretty easy to fall from as well and the water is deeper than my kid is tall. I’d been through my options. I could try to reach down for her, but that was not a given, depending on how she fell. Obviously, I could just jump right in after her, but risk landing on her. It was easy to see the best option would be to calmly lower myself in, avoiding her, and the pick her up. Afterward, we could go inside and warm up. So, with five minutes of contemplation, I’d worked out the best option. Now, if she fell in, I wouldn’t waste any time in deciding what to do, or waste time with fruitless efforts while she was underwater. (This way of thinking came in handy when she fell through the ice at a park – the photo is her response after I plucked her out, having already thought of the possibility. She’s a pretty chill kid.)
It made sense to me. And it made sense to my wife after I’d explained it to her. It’s how my brain works. I am regularly working out what I’d do if something went wrong. When the apartment building next to us burned down a couple of years ago, my first thought was what I would have done if I’d noticed it happening (it happened at 3:00am). The second was to plot an escape route from our second floor apartment. I knew we’d be fine if our building burned down the next night.
This is something I’ve done my whole life. As a lonely teenager (and let me be honest, through my twenties) I spent many hours lying in bed creating scenes in which I was the hero, saving some damsel in distress. There were rescues from gun sieges, terrorists, fires, floods. I always managed to find the right way out, with my crush safely in tow. She naturally fell in love with me after that.
Recently it is done while out and about in the world. I see a truck up ahead and plan for an accident. I am sitting waiting for a movie and look for all the exits in case of a fire. I position myself around my kid to shield her from potential accidents – runaway skateboards, falling flowerpots, people who look like they could be vampires, etc. None of these things cause me fear – it’s not anxiety. It is simply planning ahead.
And planning ahead is how you can fight through all of the factors that hold you back when someone needs a hero.
Popular Mechanics (of all places) has an article titled “From Bystander to Hero: How to be the First Responder to 10 Disasters.” It lists ten situations and the asks experts the best way to handle them. I don’t want to understate how vital this article is for someone who wants to be ready to be a Reaction Hero. Basically, you’re not serious about that desire unless you read this article once a month. Making it a monthly read means you will be the person who steps out the crowd to save someone from a burning car, help someone escape from falling through the ice, or bring someone back from the edge of suicide.
Quest Work: (what is this?) Think about how you can prepare yourself. Watch a disaster movie and think about how you’d survive. When you read about an accident, find out how the experts suggest handling it.