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We’re taking a pause today to think about the brave people who are our first responders. The people who ran towards danger that fateful day almost twenty years ago. One of our book haul books is the story of the psychological impact doing this heroic work can have.
When you dial 911 you expect an answer. You expect to be rescued. Rarely, do we ever think of the people doing the rescuing. It’s an expectation to be met. First responders jump into flames for us, out of buildings, and into treacherous ocean storms. These people show up and meet expectations to save lives. Like so many who showed up to Ground Zero almost twenty years ago, Jason Sautel was a firefighter.
In Oakland, Sautel made a name for himself fighting the flames. In his debut book, The Rescuer, he details his passion for his work as a firefighter, the bravery of his firehouse brothers and sisters, and the struggles they face every day. The first group of emergency responders that comes to mind when you think of selfless rescuers are the responders who answered the call to 9/11.
19 years later we remember and honor their bravery, but we (at least I know I) rarely think of their lives post-tragedy. In The Rescuer, Jason reminds us that there are men and women who go to work everyday knowing that tragedy will meet them there. And at the end of a shift we just expect them to clock out and join the rest of us in normal life. It’s just not that easy, and it certainly wasn’t that way for Jason. Here are 4 things I learned from reading a book about a rescuer that found himself needing rescuing:
- It’s okay to not be okay
“People are a mess. You, me, our families, everyone. We’re all a mess!”
Jason’s wife Kristie said this quote to Jason and she is so right. Raise your hand if you’re a mess. *both hands up* 2020 is a circus and who knows when the collective world will catch a break. Now, more than ever we can agree that WE ARE ALL A MESS! Jokes aside, being a human is mentally taxing. Nobody has it all together. We are not superheroes. Jason Sautel is as close to a real life superhero as you can get, and without the super powers, he found that working a physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing job day in and day out sucked the life out of him. He was kind of a mess -- and that’s okay!! What is not okay is to stay complacent in your mess. That’s not healthy. Get a support system and let them carry you to higher ground when you feel you’re drowning. Reach out. Get help. Use your mess to propel you forward. Make progress. It’s totally okay to not be okay…but it’s not okay to stay that way.
- Focus on the good
“Do yourself a favor and try to make good stories your priority.”
Kristie also said this quote and you’ll find that her truth bombs are key players in the storyline. In Jason’s line of work as a firefighter the bad outcomes stuck with him more than the positive ones. This mental state became his default filter for how he viewed himself and the world around him. Kristie’s challenge to Jason to focus on the good is not to discount or ignore the bad, but to create a balanced perspective. Listen, none of us is perfect (see lesson #1 above) and we all make mistakes. But we can’t let the mistakes or bad outcomes define who we are. While it is human nature to focus on what went wrong often time that leaves us forgetting what went right. When Jason started to meet his thoughts of darkness with stories of hope and survival his perspective shifted, and his world went from black and white to color.
- You’re not alone
“Jesus is the only one who doesn’t fail. He can’t. He won’t, I promise you.”
Okay, okay. Jason didn’t say this quote either. This is another truth bomb from Kristie. But hopefully you’re catching onto the point I’m making: You need to have a support system by your side. Jason had Kristie, and Kristie had Jesus. Let’s not kid ourselves, Jesus was the one doing most of the work here. Jason now sees that his walk to faith was not by happenstance, but at the time he was just trying to make it through and was willing to accept the lifeline the woman he loved was offering. The help Kristie had to offer was her faith in Christ. With Jesus by her side, Kristie was able to pull Jason out of the darkness and into the light.
- There is hope
“The messed-up, broken-down world I knew so well was fallen. Sinful. And the times of peace, the genuine love, was God.”
If you only take away one thing from this post please hear this: THERE. IS. HOPE. God doesn’t waste the hard times, He works them together for good. Hebrews 6:19 it says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hope is a gift from God meant for the times when we feel totally alone and unsure of what comes next. Jason says it perfectly: This world is messed up. Broken-down. But the gift of hope offers peace, love, understanding, a foundation that we can tie ourselves to when nothing else feels secure. Hope is a gift—all you have to do is take it.
This world is full of the unknown. Firefighters don’t always have all the details when they set out to answer a call, just like the first wave of emergency responders reporting to the World Trade Center on 9/11 may not have fully known the nightmare they were about to meet. However, they all believed that doing their job, finding the lost in need of rescue, was more important than their own safety. It can be a thankless job. Their roles are often overlooked. And on this 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I ask that you take an extra moment to thank the emergency responders around you who don’t have the luxury of easy days at work.