First Responders – the very phrase carries an aura of heroism and caring. “First responders” is something of a misnomer because they are often the ONLY responders. Rushing in when no one else will, these people are on the frontlines of saving lives. They breathe life into others and revive them.
Now, when you hear the phrase you most likely think of Paramedics or EMTs (like my nephew.) You think of Hatzoloh members who race out of their homes even in the middle of a Shabbos meal, or in the middle of the night in their pajamas, when those calls come in, or people like Police or Firefighters who risk their lives daily for others. Indeed, all those are good examples.
Today, however, I’m thinking of another group of individuals who are worthy of our admiration and respect. These people do very similar work to the people mentioned above but in a different way. They find people who need resuscitating, into whom they can breathe life and strength. The difference is, the people they’re helping aren’t calling for help in a noticeable way. There’s no special number to call, no international sign that you’re in distress, and you won’t actually drop dead if nobody responds.
For example, I wrote a column a few weeks ago. A woman from London e-mailed me to thank me, saying she really enjoyed it and appreciated my analogies. It was like a breath of fresh air! I got such chizuk (encouragement) from it. When writers write, we’re putting our efforts “out there somewhere” and we never really know that we’re reaching people. Sure, on some digital outlets you may be able to see that a certain number of people read it, but you don’t know what they thought of what you wrote.
This woman, though, took the time to comment and compliment, to actually take the time to RESPOND. And that felt amazing. I Googled her. (Don’t be surprised that if your name comes up, people will look for you and try to find out more information. So be careful what you put out there.)
Do you know what I found? I found another letter to a magazine which had been published when she responded to an article she read there. And that (she) was the inspiration for this column. This wasn’t a one-off occurrence, but a conscious and consistent effort, to express appreciation to others for their efforts. She is literally – and literarily – a first responder. (And I hope she’s chuckling to herself that of all the people in the Universe, she’s the only one besides me who knows who she is.)
It’s like the famous story of the boy standing on the sea shore. He kept bending down and picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water. A man came by and scoffed, “You can’t possibly throw them all back. There are thousands of them here. You won’t make any difference.”
The boy thought for a moment, looked down at the starfish in his hand, and threw it back into the water. “I made a difference to that one!” And that’s what the first responders I’m talking about do.
This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed this topic. Do you know that nearly every week, one of the typesetters will respond to my submissions and tell me why she liked the column? It doesn’t go unnoticed. It matters. Because it makes a difference to “this” one.
All around us, every day, we will find people who are doing their jobs, not necessarily asking for acknowledgment, but to whom the acknowledgement would make a difference. If you compliment someone, you could be doing the equivalent of CPR. You may not be doing chest compressions, but you will touch their heart. You can be giving them chiyus, life and vitality, with your kind words. Simply the fact that you took the time to notice and let them know you did, could change someone’s entire outlook.
What was drudgery before can become meaningful and worthwhile because others appreciate it. Do you realize what power you hold in your hands and mouth? The knowledge that by letting someone know they made a difference in your life, you are making a big difference in theirs, is empowering and should make you want to do it all the time.
So go ahead and try to be a first responder. Tell your kids how proud you are of them. Tell your neighbor how good their lawn looks, or that you saw their child being polite and making a Kiddush Hashem. Compliment the janitor in your building on how sparkling the floors are. Whatever you can do will go a lot further than you realize.
You may not like the sight of blood nor ever have any medical training, but you can be a real life saver.
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