Life, Death, the Economy, and Choices

Here’s a fun fact about me-I can potentially save your life.

Several months ago my employer signed us up for First Aid/CPR/AED training through the American Red Cross. Close to a full-day course, it was designed to help us recognize and respond to various medical emergency situations. We learned how to treat a wide range of physical issues, from burns to puncture wounds. We practiced CPR and using an automatic external defibrillator (AED), which is the machine that sends a electric shock through your system in cases of cardiac arrest. And no, we didn’t get to yell, “Clear!” during our practice sessions. We learned how to transport injured people out of dangerous situations.

Ultimately, what I learned was that this knowledge gave me a heightened sense of responsibility. Knowing how to help people meant that I couldn’t be a passive observer anymore. If you think about a typical emergency situation (an accident on a highway’s a good example) you’ll tend to find 3 things-the person in need, someone attempting to help, and people watching the event. Prior to the training I was squarely in the “people watching” camp. It’s a position of powerlessness. Now I can help, and that’s an amazing feeling. After the training day I felt I grew as a person and not just as an employee.

Like I previously mentioned, it’s also a lot of responsibility. When my colleagues and I were practicing CPR on the test dummies, the instructor started us off by having us perform it in spurts. First we practiced for 30 seconds, then 1 minute, then 3. By the 3rd 3-minute session my arms were sore and all the silly jokes we were sharing had stopped. I asked the instructor how long should a person continue to perform CPR before stopping. He said that you don’t stop, not until someone can take over for you or until medical personnel arrive. To illustrate the point pretty dramatically here’s a scene from The Abyss (warning-slapping the person you’re trying to save is not recommended):

That’s a lot to place on a person’s shoulders. I suspect that’s part of the reason why so many people aren’t certified. If you don’t know how to do something you can then honestly say that you can’t help. Power and responsibility has been delegated. Yet we all have a choice. To be an observer, someone in need, or someone who can help. Training’s important, but not a prerequisite. What proper training does is give you the confidence and skill needed to be more effective, to reduce risk and increase the chances for success. It creates conditions under which to inspire hope, that something better will emerge.

With all of the economic issues we’re facing, it’s important that we all recognize a few things. First, we all have a part to play in this mess, both in its creation and resolution. Second, that we have a choice in what role we want to adopt. This is not to say that by choosing you’ll be successful. Knowing CPR doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to save everyone. With choice comes risk. What it does mean is that you’ve taken back the power that’s been yours all along and you’ve taken the first step in building a desirable future.

What choices will you make today?

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