To wrap up our series on responder values, a short story:
A young couple decide to go for a walk along a quiet sandy beach, just before sunset. Hand in hand they stroll along the edge of the warm surf. The waves leave soft white lumps of foam before they recess back to the sea. Ahead of the couple on the beach, an old man is also walking. He is moving slowly, almost gingerly along the water’s edge. Every few steps, he stops, slowly bends over and picks something up, then walks into the surf about knee deep, places that something into the water and then goes back to his slow stroll along the beach.
He does this over and over. The young couple, curious, walk closer behind the old man to see what he is doing, so intently.
The old man stops again, slowly bends over, and picks up a sand coated star fish that has washed ashore.
He straightens up, cradles the star fish gently, takes a few careful strides into the waves and then just as gently, returns the star fish to the ocean. He stands back up and looks out to the sea for only a moment, with a satisfied look on his face, that quickly becomes determined. He returns to the sandy shore and continues his sea side mission. As he walks, he stops over and over; gently rescuing star fish after star fish.
The young couple watch him for several more minutes. As they do, they look ahead of the old man and see that along the water’s edge there are hundreds, if not thousands of star fish that have washed up in the twilight surf.
When the couple finally catch up with the old man, the younger man asks, “Sir - we’ve been watching you; what are you doing exactly?”
The old man, without even looking their direction, replies “I’m saving these star fish. If they stay out of the water too long, they will dry up and die on the shore.”
The young man looks at his girlfriend, slightly confused and mostly cynical, and with a raised eyebrow he replies, “There are thousands of star fish out here today. Look at them,” he gestures along the distance of the shoreline for the old man. The young man challenges, “Do you really think that you’re making any difference?”
The old man, cradling a tiny star fish in his palm, looks up and gazes onto the shoreline as it falls away to the red horizon. Star fish lie on the sand, as far as they can see.
The old man then looks back to the star fish in his hands, slowly turns toward the sea, bends over and gently lowers his hands into the soft surf and without looking toward the couple, he replies quietly, “It makes a difference to this one.”
What you do matters; right then, right there and quite possibly, for a lifetime afterwards.
There will always be more emergencies and more people to help. It is an almost overwhelming thought, that first response, is really, an infinite need.
It can feel almost pointless if you over think it. Bad things do not, have not and will not stop coming. There is always going to be another call.
Just never forget this - every single one of those calls has a person in it. A person with a family, friends and neighbors. Every single one of them matters.
Be the difference for them.
Bring your best, authentic self. Lead with your values.
Do the work that matters.