November 23, 2021

The Jimmy Type

When I was eight years old I had a great friend named Jimmy. Jimmy lived around the corner and his grandparents lived across the alley from me. Jimmy's grandparents had a swimming pool in their backyard and I was sometimes invited to swim in it with Jimmy and any of his cousins who happened to be around. One hot summer day, Jimmy and I were playing beside the pool. His four year old cousin was with us, but she was in the pool. Suddenly, she started flailing her arms and couldn't get her head above the water. She must have moved to the deeper part of the pool which was four feet deep. I stood rooted to the ground, like a deer in the headlights. I could see Jimmy's cousin was drowning, but I couldn't seem to act. Jimmy jumped into the water straight away and saved her. I have never forgotten how impressed I was with Jimmy. I also could not understand my own behavior.

The fact is, the world is full of people like Jimmy who jump in with both feet during a crisis, and thank God they do. This week in British Columbia, during historic rainfall and the subsequent flooding of countless farms and homes, landslides, and washouts of important transportation corridors, we have so many examples of people acting immediately in response to the catastrophe around them: first responders, pilots, health care professionals, police officers, truck drivers, and members of the general public who have the 'right stuff' and know innately how to make themselves useful right off the bat. My hat goes off to all of them. They are worth their weight in gold in a crisis.

Of course, when I had children my reactive reflexes developed and I saved my own kids from some near misses and trucked them off to the emergency room when needed. Something primal takes over one's natural tendencies when one is responsible for tiny humans. Still, in the face of large scale disasters I am still somewhat slow to fully respond. My mind seems to employ a slow processor when it comes to this type of crisis. If someone else (like my husband, a Jimmy type) directs me I can act - sometimes I'm even effectual - but left to my own devices, I'm afraid I lack the necessary DNA to take charge. I was once the passenger in a terrifying car accident from which I walked away miraculously unharmed. My response to the shock? I went home and fell asleep on the couch. I'm much better at crises for which concentrated thought processes are involved, like if one of my children is going through a hard time and needs advice, or a friend needs a listening ear and a measured response. That sort of thing.

We all have different gifts, although we can be pretty hard on ourselves when we find our particular gifts not terribly useful at a given time, myself included. I want to be helpful to my flood-damaged neighbours. It just might take me some time to figure out what that help will look like. (I've also been trapped between mudslides for a week and a half, and my role during this stage has been one of keeping myself calm and lending moral support to those around me.) 

In the meantime, my appreciation for all you Jimmy types out there is currently at an all-time high. Keep on jumping in with both feet. You are so needed. 

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