From time to time we all see or hear about professional athletes being put into critical situations for their team: being put on the ice for sudden death overtime in hockey, pitching or batting in the the bottom of the ninth in baseball, or playing an elimination game in any sport. When interviewers ask if they are nervous, many of them discuss how they’ve trained for years for this moment – and how they relish the chance to make a difference. Jose Bautista’s series saving homerun in the ALDS a few weeks ago was the perfect example of this – with one swing of the bat, he changed the fortunes of his team. And it was a moment he absolutely savors…
I wish you could have heard my thoughts in that moment. It’s the closest I have ever felt to being a superhero. I felt like I was Batman, and the villain had the girl dangling off the edge of the building. My adrenaline wasn’t 10-out-of-10. It was ten-million-out-of-10.
While sports offer a spotlight for these sorts of heroic actions, there are numerous other careers that make life-saving decisions without the pomp and circumstance that Bautista and many like him enjoy – military personnel, first responders, and those who work in the medical field. Each man or woman who works in these fields and others like them trains to defend, protect, and save lives – looking precisely to those moments where their actions might make a difference.
I think that every kid who has ever tied a cape around their neck and pretended to be a superhero has felt that same hope,wanting to make a difference. Many superheroes embody those qualities many of us aspire to: of courage, of selflessness, and that same desire to make a difference in the lives of other.
I had an experience a couple of weeks ago that reminded me that it’s a lot easier to imagine yourself as the hero than to actually be the hero.
The last week of October was a big week for the Landry family: in preparation for the birth of our fifth child, we moved from our home in Spruce Grove to a newer, bigger home in Stony Plain. On Saturday morning (Halloween), some friends had helped me put the final load in the moving truck and on our way to my new home we came upon the scene of a horrific accident – mere moments after it must have happened. Directly in front of me on the highway was a pickup truck, the front end crumpled, the hood slightly raised, with a small fire burning in the engine. To my right, in the ditch was a gravel truck – the hood open and a tire bent at an awkward angle. As I came to a stop, others who had witnessed the crash were trying to help those in the pickup truck and directed us to check on the driver of the gravel truck.
I took about ten steps in that direction and stopped when I saw someone’s arm through the passenger side window. In this moment fear set in. What was I going to find? Was the driver even alive? In that moment I froze, knowing that I needed to step forward, but I was unable to do it. My friend, following in a second vehicle, ran past me and climbed up to cab to find the driver alive and semi-conscious… and we stayed with her right up until EMS arrived to take over her care.
At one point, I tried to go back to the still-burning pickup and see if I could help, but that same vein of fear kept running through me – what could I do? Was there anyone still alive there? I witnessed others unload a fire extinguisher under the hood (to no effect), and then pull a survivor through the back window to get him clear of the fire. When EMS arrived, they quickly and efficiently saw to the survivors and began to investigate the scene. After taking our statements, we were on our way to the new house – but a part of me had a hard time leaving this experience behind at all.
This is because for several days after the accident, I was wracked with two gnawing feelings. One was an intense sense of sadness – knowing that three men lost their lives a few meters from where I stood (likely before I ever got there), and that many lives – notably those of the two survivors – are irreversibly changed. The second was a sense of shame at the way fear won in my heart that day. I don’t feel like I did anything heroic when the situation certainly called for heroic actions.
On Wednesday this week, we will stop and remember those who gave their lives fighting for the freedoms our country takes for granted… men and women who’ve shed their blood in the many wars throughout the 148 year history of our country. In a strange coincidence, I’ll be at Canadian Blood Services early Wednesday morning to give blood before my family marks Remembrance day. The fact is that my life is not likely to lead me down the road where I’ll don a uniform and fight for our freedom – but I will be doing what I can.
Gratefully, there were heroes at the scene of the accident- people willing to put their lives on the line for the victims of this accident… people who did what they could in bigger and smaller ways. My biggest contribution that day may have been the following post on social media:
Social media world: please pray. We were second on the scene at a very serious accident – some people died.
— Mike Landry (@mikeisthird) October 31, 2015
What I could do – enlisting the prayers of others in my social media network – represents 1250 people who apparently saw this post on Twitter or Facebook. Alfred Lord Tennyson, the nineteenth century poet, wrote: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” And if any significant number of those people stopped and said a prayer for the victims at the hour of their death, for the survivors, and for all of their families and friends… it means that perhaps I’ve been able to offer something positive in an otherwise grim situation.
St. Paul writes of the community of the Church as one body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). He explains how just as each part has a particular role and duty in the function of our bodies, so too does each person have a particular role and duty in the community. Some roles bring with them more fame and glory – but other, quieter roles are just as necessary. If you just don’t see yourself as the superhero type (as I’ve recently learned about myself) – take courage. God sees more and has more in store for you than you might think. What can I do? I can give blood and pray for those who suffer.
The point is this: even if you are never given the opportunity to stand in a crisis moment and be the hero, you can still make a difference – a difference that matters. And in the case of the accident I saw, please pray for the victims, the survivors, the witnesses, and all the friends and family impacted by this horrific accident. That’s something you can offer in any circumstance and at any time… even if you haven’t been called to play Batman.