On any given day I process quite a bit of information. From the alert emails I review for my job, the Wall Street Journal news alerts on my phone to my friends and associates statements on blogs, LinkedIn, news feeds, Twitter and on Facebook. My point really is there is an abundance of information bombarding me every day. I am always amazed how rewarding the process of reading is when I stumble across something truly profound:
“All of us here in this Yard, at one time or another, have seen human tragedies that broke our hearts, and yet we did nothing – not because we didn’t care, but because we didn’t know what to do. If we had known how to help, we would have acted.” Bill Gates – in a speech to Harvard University 1997
I believe this quote identifies an important part of human nature that every single one of us will struggle with in our lives. In the face of human tragedy or extremely disturbing situations we often feel powerless or over-whelmed and do not know how to respond – so we do nothing. A perfect example is when we are a witness to an auto accident, it is our legal and moral responsibility to stop but how many cars zoom by and do nothing with drivers confused and un-sure of how to respond. Understanding this can lead to a very reasonable outcome – being prepared.
Self preservation probably plays a large role in this, but we know human beings can overcome these instincts and remain calm in these situations. One key is preparation. First aid classes are a good example of a responsible and meaningful thing you can do to be prepared for some of these situations. Another key is mental preparation – try this exercise and after doing it you may decide there are additional things you would like to do to be more prepared. Consider what you might instinctively do and what you should do in the following scenarios:
- You are on a train and a passenger collapses to the ground near you.
- A patron in line in front of you gets very verbally abusive and threatening to the cashier.
- You witness an automobile accident and several cars in front of you do not stop.
By preparing and visualizing, it is much easier to do the right thing when you face the situation in real life. Item #2 was a real world example for me; I was in an office supplies store when this occurred. I did not intervene but I was mentally preparing myself for what I would do if the situation escalated beyond threats to actual violence. Had I not had a chance to prepare, what would I have done? Hopefully the same things I had planned to do if it had.
I’ve reduced this issue to a much smaller scale and made it more personal for effect, but I would encourage anyone reading this article to consider this same concept when facing a significant crisis anywhere in the world. Instead of not acting, understand that these issues are complex and find out what you can do and do something. It does not have to be huge but I believe the greater your commitment the greater the reward will which reminds me of this Chinese proverb:
If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
If you like what I’ve said here I would recommend you visit a local service club, for selfish reasons I will recommend Rotary. I have been a part of the Danville/Sycamore Valley Rotary club for over 2 years and it has definitely given me inspiration to build a lifetime of happiness.