Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 19, 2009 - Wisdom to Survive

Today I’m reading an article from Newsweek, written by Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III, Captain of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, who piloted his plane to a successful emergency landing in the Hudson River. Captain Sullenberger is a national hero, of course. His story of coolheaded competence and courage has spoken in some remarkable ways to a nation grown weary, and wary, of its leaders.

His tale of survivorship says a few things to those of us surviving a different sort of crisis.

First, although I used the word “hero” to describe him, it’s a word he shies away from:

“As my wife, Lorrie, pointed out on 60 Minutes, a hero is someone who decides to run into a burning building. This was different – this was a situation that was thrust upon us. I didn’t choose to do what I did.”

Cancer, too, is thrust upon us. We don’t choose it. Although some are quick to describe us with words like “courage” – maybe even “hero” – it’s not a mantle most of us wear comfortably. We didn’t run into this particular burning building. We woke up smelling smoke, and now we’re trying our best to find a way out of the place. Just because we’re not running around yelling and screaming doesn’t make us especially courageous, or heroic.

Second, Captain Sullenberger has something to say about what it takes to get through a crisis:

“During every minute of the flight, I was confident I could solve the next problem. My first officer, Jeff Skiles, and I did what airline pilots do: we followed our training, and our philosophy of life. We valued every life on that airplane and knew it was our responsibility to try to save each one, in spite of the sudden and complete failure of our aircraft. We never gave up. Having a plan enabled us to keep our hope alive. Perhaps in a similar fashion, people who are in their own personal crises – a pink slip, a foreclosure – can be reminded that no matter how dire the circumstance, or how little time you have to deal with it, further action is always possible. There's always a way out of even the tightest spot. You can survive.”

Indeed. We can survive. When bad news comes, when frightful challenges arise, we may feel for a time like we’re headed for disaster. There are things we’ve learned, though – or can learn – about survivorship. Such wisdom we can fall back on, when the engines flame out and we feel ourselves suddenly descending. Just follow our training, and our philosophy of life. These things will see us through.

“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
– Daniel 12:3


Byron said...

Great words of encouragement! Thanks ;-)

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Nice post. Put another way: Knowlege is power. Nowhere is this more true than when dealing with a medical challenge.
With hope, Wendy