The Real Heros
We live and die in a time of astonishing contrasts. For the first time in our lives, we are getting our noses rubbed in these contrasts daily. Perhaps the most powerful theme is that all of us encounter mortality on a daily basis. I’ve observed this is when we tend to question the meaning of life only to find ourselves in a spiritual crisis.
I could plaster all types of examples of participants that have established meaningful careers, and what we ten to do when we realize we haven’t spent much time on what is meaningful to us personally. When that doesn’t line up with how we make a living, changes often occur pretty quickly.
When all of us are aware of how quickly life can end, it is only natural to wonder about the meaning of it all. We find a spectrum from Christian, Hebrew, Islamic, and religious doctrine all to Elon Musk’s belief that we are living in a virtual reality game run by an advanced society.
A year-and-a-half ago, my partner and I were having dinner. We suddenly heard blood-curdling screams from the hallway outside our condo. The desperate cries were coming from a neighbor we found quite irritating for five years. Her mentally disabled son was on top of her, blood was everywhere, and he was well on his of murdering her in front of us. We don’t keep guns, but we have utensils. I grabbed a rolling pin and my partner got on the phone with the police.
Her face was unrecognizable. I yelled that if he didn’t stop, I was going to hit him. Then, I did it and he kept coming back as if he hadn’t felt a thing. It took the police over 40 minutes to arrive. Our other neighbors didn’t come to help. Even the security guard on our property didn’t spring into action. The head of the paramedic team shared doubts that she wouldn’t make it to the hospital. They had to revive her three times and after almost two months of healing and surgery, she made it home.
People routinely called us heroes. For the first time, I understood why so many people have difficulty accepting that title. A few weeks later, friends were over for dinner, and after telling them what happened, a dear woman said, “Life is sacred. The two of you know that and what you did was a sacred act.” From that vantage point, we had to do everything we could to save her life. Because if we did not, we would turn into men without any sense of life being sacred. This is why the action that we take does far more to define us than words.
Over the years, I’ve worked with so many people who have dared to speak up and commit to careers that bring meaning into their lives. We have also encountered many people with the same need, but they choose comfort over action.
Work dominates most of our waking hours. As we weather this storm, we expect a new flood of participants coming to Inspired Work to define and find meaningful professional lives. Because this is the first time, we have experienced the spectrum of mortality together every single day, for over six months. For many, settling for just a paycheck will no longer be enough.
Our society is also in the direct experience of the difference between empathy and self-centeredness, which turns out to be the most efficient way to turn us into very small packages.
But, rather than regaling you with glamorous stories about our clients, I would like to share how touched I’ve been with the heroes that are around us every single day.
Before sharing the truth, I have only recently entered the protected age class at Whole Foods, so I’ve learned to cop to my age by showing up at 7 a.m. I get to be there when there are few customers in the store. The workers have a deep sense of pride in how they present food to us. They genuinely care and pay attention to their customers. The produce department is a work of art. At first, I was reminded of stepping into a cafe in Barcelona for breakfast. I asked for fruit and yogurt. Here, we would have a glass filled with yogurt and some fruit thrown on the top. The Spaniards will turn fruit and yogurt into an art piece. I asked our waiter why the spent so much time on a fairly common dish. He smiled and said, “We don’t want to be common and beauty makes all of our lives better.”
Progressing through Whole Foods brings me to Stella, my first lady butcher. She was in rock bands before and she wears her tattoos as a badge of honor. She has these turned up glasses with nicely set rhinestones – just two or there. I often ask how she is being treated. The answer is always the same, “Most of my customers are patient and kind. There are more people that seem to be angry all the time. But, I don’t take it personally. They are going through a lot right now.”
A lot? She has four children to support and takes the bus in from the valley. She is just as afraid as the rest of us and yet, she shows up and has the decency to keep giving people love and the benefit of the doubt in Santa Monica, filled with self-appointed elites. Stella looks at them with compassion. Because life is sacred.
I was at Cedar-Sinai hospital last month to prepare to get rid of the injury on my thumb. It felt like walking into a war zone. Before getting into the clinic, there was a line with about eight people in front of me. At the front was a beautiful and cordial woman checking temperatures, issuing masks, and handing out sanitizer. A man in front of me started yelling at her to speed up. I raised my voice and said, “She is here for us. She puts her life on the line for all of us.” Most of the line broke into applause. When I got to her she whispered, “If the circumstances were different, I would hug you.” I suggested she had earned hugs from all of us every single day.
These are the people that put their lives on the line to take care of us. They are the heroes.
These are the people that deserve our attention and applause. Because they have the depth and courage to be empathetic and kind, even to the people walking around without much gratitude because they are so very important.
As for you?
If this tidal wave of a year has created a thirst for meaning in your professional life, give us a call.