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Why Do We Do This?

Why do we do this? Why do we feel we have, as we call it, a mandate to elevate? Considering all the pain, disruption, upheaval, and uncertainty today, why in the name of all that’s sensible do we continue raising others up, finding something positive, something elevating rather than its opposite?

Is there something wrong with us? Are we not paying attention? Did we miss the memo?

The only way I can respond to those questions is with the answer we always give: How can we not? I ask you this: If there’s something wrong with us, where do we go to get help? If we’re not paying attention, who will? If we missed the memo, perhaps the memo wasn’t written very well. We will continue our mandate to elevate come what may.

Thomas Paine (a perfectly appropriate name) once said “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He said ‘try’ as in test. This is the reason we focus on the positive; why we continue elevating others when they’re falling; why we feel our mandate to elevate. Not just because we’ve been given so much and mandated to share it ourselves. But because through our previous careers and experience, we’ve seen the astonishing effects of the changes that mandate renders in the world. We’ve seen it first-hand.

Let me share one of those first-hand stories from that time in my previous life. Disguising names, places, and identifications due to HIPPA regulations, I’ll say this. The first winter I flew the medical helicopter in Iowa, I was dispatched one night to a small rural hospital where a youngster had been taken after being grievously injured in a farm accident. I landed at the tiny hospital at 9 pm, my flight nurse and I went into the ER and met the family. The patient was 9 years old, unconscious, brutalized by the trauma, and was not expected to survive. Physicians were discussing organ donations with the despairing parents.

I helped place the child inside the helicopter, lifted into the frigid Iowa night, and flew back to the big hospital where the child went directly to the OR.

My mandate to elevate was not always rewarded with good news. Often—very often—the end result was tragic, final, and entirely predictable. I watched people die. I watched families grieve. More times than I can recall I was there for the ultimate moment of peoples’ lives, present in the room as they breathed their last. I was surrounded in those times by the extremes of life: the ugly, brutal, miserable, and heartbreaking. I was also immersed in the other side: the hope-filled, glorious, astonishing, and heartwarming part of life that comes with the mandate to elevate.

The child survived the night. A few weeks later I watched as the parents wheeled their child into the family car, and together they drove away toward home. Watching those people leave the hospital, taking their child home after a frightening, nearly tragic time affirmed my belief that the mandate to elevate is not just a fanciful notion, but part of who we are. If everyone has just one story like this, it might be enough. It certainly was for that child and those parents.

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Byron Edgington
Byron Edgingtonhttps://www.byronedgington.com/
Byron Edgington was a commercial & military helicopter pilot for 50 years. An award-winning writer, he is the author of several books including The Sky Behind Me: a Memoir of Flying and Life, A Vietnam Anthem: What the War Gave Me, Waiting for Willie Pete, a Novel of Vietnam, PostFlight: An Old Pilot’s Logbook, and recently released Journey Well, You Are More Than Enough. Edgington served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot, including a yearlong tour in Vietnam. As a commercial pilot, he flew all over the world, including 20 years of air medical flying in Iowa, news & traffic in several U.S. cities, a stint as a corporate pilot, and three years flying tours on the island of Kauai. After retiring from aviation in 2005, he returned to college and received his Bachelor's Degree in English and creative writing from The Ohio State University at age 63. In 2012 Edgington won the prestigious Bailey Prize in non-fiction from the Swedenborg Foundation Press for his essay titled ‘Lift Off.’ Byron Edgington is married to his best friend, Mariah. He has three daughters, and six grandchildren. Recently returned to the U.S. after living in Medellin Colombia, he now lives and writes in Iowa City Iowa.

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8 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Pat on Byron. Nail hit on head. “A Mandate to elevate” as beautifully put it. It’s such a non-optional behavioural trait that it;s a no-brainer( almost).. .
    It goes down to “owning” your own “Empathy” – the bedrock of intimacy and close connections, and sensitivity to anothers pain, we cause and others feel uniwttingly.

    I truly feel that in its absence, relationships remain emotionally shallow.

    Thank you for capturing the essence of “humanity” so discerningly.

    Minnku Buttar

  2. I am thinking of the diagram Leslie Flowers shared on the friendship bench today, Byron, and wondering if the mandate to elevate is like the mindset through which we experience facts.

    Any situation can include both something good and something bad. Where we put our attention depends on whether we are looking for confirmation that things are crap or that we can find something worthwhile.

    Looking for worthwhile bears its own reward. The world is both a better and safer place and with nicer and more competent people than when we look for the shortcomings.

    We can always find something. But attitude determines what we see.

    • Charlotte, always good observations. Yes, mindset is a big part of it for us, and I agree, confirmation bias can work both ways. In the end, I prefer to look for the positive and contributory. As susceptible to exploitation as this attitude may make us, I believe life is far too short for a bunkered mentality.

      Thanks for writing, I appreciate the response.

      BE

    • And it feels so good, and so right when we do, that’s the thing. Thank you for reading the piece, JoAnna, good to see you today. Someone needs to talk to that worm about the horseradish!

      B

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