Friday, September 16, 2005

Readiness Is All

Shakespeare had an uncanny ability to sum up larger life lessons within the context of scenarios designed primarily to entertain. Certainly this quality has much to do with the abiding popularity of his work. I found myself so touched last night – and fascinated too – to see how well one teacher is able to reach at-risk grade-schoolers and help them develop life skills that prepare them for greater success than they typically see on a day-to-day basis.

And the impact on these kids is huge – I mean really, how many boys are that might otherwise be considering getting involved in a gang are able or willing to cry openly as the class reads about Huck Finn finding within himself the courage to reject societal norms and do what he believes to be the right thing? Heck, the whole class was sobbing after their final performance of Hamlet on their last day of school. You can’t buy or force that kind of compassion and closeness nor the sort of personal convictions that arise from that.

Rafe instills in his Hobart Shakespearean students two priorities – Be Nice to one another and Work Hard. The rest follows from this and it’s a good start; simply put, there are no shortcuts to these words of wisdom. Rafe also understands that what it is they do with his gifts when they leave him is entirely up to them. Fortunately, it sounds like many of them take the foundation provided them and really run with it. Their implementation must be good for these students to end up places like Harvard, Stanford & Yale especially when they’re literally pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. That’s not the kind of success that can be pushed upon a kid.

This is heartening to see in a time when so recently we have seen the devastating impact of both insufficient readiness and problematic implementation of an entirely different sort.

Quite frankly, I believe that it would have been impossible to fully anticipate and effectively deal with a storm as horrific as Katrina. Where I gag is in knowing that those things for which we could not prepare did not have to be nearly as devastating had there been sufficient preparedness for that which was predictable and had those plans been carried out more effectively. And by all means, if you see a storm that effectively fills the entire Gulf of Mexico, take seriously that it’s likely to be very bad!

Now is a good time for all of us to take stock. While it is reasonable to expect the government e involved in emergencies and that it be the federal government when the disasters are large-scale and regional in nature, it’s also important to consider the role of individuals too.

In the US, most of us are in danger of one kind of natural disaster or another – if it’s not hurricanes, it’s tornadoes, or earthquakes… or river flooding or flash flooding… or volcanoes… or blizzards, or… well, you get the idea. Those who know me are probably not surprised I’m harping on this topic yet again.

What is likely where you are? Start with what preparations are reasonable for your situation to ensure that you as an individual (and your family) are ready to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 48-72 hours. The notion that being on our own for an extended period of time truly is a possibility even in our industrialized society is perhaps the biggest wake-up call for us recently because clearly this is not something we’ve necessarily understood well in the past.

I am one of those who can be easily overwhelmed by a task that seems too large. The good news is that there are monthly/weekly To-Do lists available that can help make the task of preparedness more manageable and at least one that I’ve seen even includes suggestions such as completing some first aid training – making it much more than just a kit list. If you don’t like what you find, make your own master list and then post it together with your shopping list so that you can buy one item at a time along with your normal purchases.

The other clear lesson both from Rafe’s classroom and from Katrina is that good communication is critical to any long-term success.

For that matter, get kids interested in ham radio and use that as an opportunity to get involved yourself if you’re so inclined. Not only is it fun and interesting, it’s clear that ham radio works and that there’s still a need for amateur radio operators even in this age of cell phones and trunked radio systems. While I highly value the Elmers in my own life, I know there are some things I can do now that I won’t be able to do in my later years. Even if I could, we need to keep younger generations involved just to keep up the tradition.

Once you’re able to start working on your individual disaster preparedness, take a look at your work family and your business operations. Even if it seems like something somebody else should be paying attention to, there are people you care about and skills that you have that make you uniquely qualified to come up with questions and solutions others will not have without your input. Undoubtedly there is also something about your work that you know better than anyone else and so they’ll all be relying on you to help figure out how to keep operations as normal as possible in the event of a disaster.

Start today. Start small if you must, but start – Work Hard. And coordinate with the other people you interact with both at work and in your personal life – in other words, Be Nice. If that readiness is necessary, the results will be far better than if you put off the effort.

It’s also likely that we’ll be better off for having engaged in these efforts even if they’re not needed. Work Hard and Be Nice is just good advice no matter what the circumstances. We’ll know more about our business operations and the people we work with, we’ll know better how to deal with sports injuries should they occur, and we’ll be closer to our neighbors. How can any of that be a bad thing?

What is one thing you are willing to do this week toward being better prepared?