How do you construct a building so that it doesn’t fall after an airplane hits it? This safety question is prominently on the map now, but it wasn’t before 9/11.
What should a school security protocol be so that the children are safe even if a gunman breaks into the school? Sandy Hook Elementary had excellent security, but after the deadly accident at the school, all schools will re-evaluate their security protocols.
How do you flood-proof your house even if it is not in the flood zone? There was a significant number of houses destroyed in NYC during Hurricane Sandy not in the flood evacuation zone, and this fact will affect the way the houses are built and purchased.
What is a safe place to hide in case of an emergency? During hurricane Sandy, two little boys were staying indoors with their families, away from windows, when a tree fell on the house and crushed both of the boys as they were playing in the family room. Whatever your take-away may be from this story, the two families have done everything they could to keep their children safe, and my heart goes out to them. Hearing this story may get you to think differently about your family’s emergency plan.
Bullet-proofing your life is not possible because it entails asking questions that your mind can’t fathom to ask yet. You just don’t know everything that you don’t know until something happens.
Once you know what the possibilities are, and once you fix what needs to be fixed, another situation comes up that you could not have imagined before it happened. And once again, your realm of possibilities expands with new, unanswered questions.
So, how do you feel safe in the world where anything can happen, any time, any place? How do you teach your children to feel safe? Here are some of the strategies that you can try:
1. Whatever you do, do it really well. “Now” is all you really have, so make it count. Let your work make this world a better place. If you are building a house, build it well. If you are cooking, make it delicious. If you are programming, make it brilliant. Do everything that you do to the best of your knowledge. May all the teachers, first responders, doctors, chefs, garbage collectors, drivers be excellent at what they do, because it will make the world a safer, better place.
2. Learn to be flexible. We tend to see what we want to see, or what we are mentally prepared to see. If you are set on the way something “should” be, you don’t see what already “is”. If can’t let go of your idea of how things “should be”, you may waste time on being in denial and miss an opportunity to escape in an emergency situation. Be aware of your surrounding: don’t say to yourself that “things like this never happen, so this must be something else.” Instead, respond with flexibility.
3. Do what really matters to you. You may be surprised to hear this, and may even find this demotivating, but whether or not you do what you do doesn’t matter as much to others as it does to you. Many hurricane victims get relief, whether or not you help out; families that go through hardship find strength, whether or not you personally offer them comfort; NPR continues broadcasting, whether or not you personally contribute. Don’t worry, the world will not fall apart if you don’t do what’s expected of you. But this doesn’t mean that you can do Nothing. Support the world in the way that matters to you, and if everyone does this, the process will resemble free market economy: things that matter most to most people will flourish. If you work for a big bank, the financial industry will not fall apart if you take a day off and attend your son’s soccer game. On the other hand, your son is resilient enough to recover if you miss a game because you are working on a project that really matters to you. Do what matters, because that’s where your heart and mind is anyway, and if you are worried that “people won’t approve”, read this.
4. Give up a sense of permanence. Exactly one week before 9/11, I was sitting right outside of the Twin Towers on a perfect warm day. I had a lunch date with a friend who worked in one of the towers, and I was waiting for her to come out. I contemplated taking a picture of the towers, and clearly remember telling myself that there is no need for a picture – these buildings will be here for years to come. Under the illusion of permanence, we may believe that things are constant and unchanging, and we get attached to the way things are. Then, when things change (and they inevitably do), our world comes crushing down because things are not the way they used to be. Once you understand that life is better described by change than by permanence, you can start the journey of learning to love deeply and yet without attachment. It is a certainty that nothing will stay the way it is, so let’s grow to love what Is, again and again, as it changes.
5. Be where love is. Spend time with people you love, with people who love you, with people who make you laugh from your gut, people who give you hugs and hot tea. Reach out, connect.
Go to places that fill you with wonder, that make you smile from ear to ear, that make you breathe deeply and easily, and make you want to raise your hands up in the air. If you fill your life with moments like this, what more can you wish for when life comes to an end? Only for more moments like this.
6. Accept that there are things you don’t understand yet. When you were a child, were you ever told “when you grow up, you will understand”? I know I would have hated that. So, when it comes to my 8-year old, I try to explain to him everything that I know about his topic of inquiry, although I know that he won’t really fully understand what I’m saying until he is older. He doesn’t know it, though, and he is satisfied with the answer. I will not preach about the life beyond, or about searching for meaning in senseless violence. But I would ask you to do this: allow a possibility that there may be something bigger than what we see that is perhaps not visible to us yet. And I am hopeful that someday we will know what it is.
I would like to donate my coaching services to any family in need of assistance in Newtown, CT. Please feel free to share my contact information if you have a direct connection with a CT family that may want additional support. Thank you.
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