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.