As a citizen of a united planet Earth, the term “minority” always seemed a bit… alien. Yes, we may be the majority in one place but dropped in a remote location of the world and suddenly you’re the minority. However, intentionally injecting oneself into such a strange world can offer a fresh new perspective on life. So with a bit of hesitation, I delved into the unknown…
There is perhaps no better way for a white male to become the minority than by attending the Hispana Leadership Summit: a conference to empower Latina women professionals and entrepreneurs. Held in South Florida the conference provided the perfect opportunity to learn and appreciate a different culture and perspective.
Of all the valuable workshops and presentations, one speaker delivered a phrase that will stay with me forever. It was the kind of saying that so beautifully crystallizes our role as men in the world:
“We need men that are not afraid of the size of our wingspan.”
Both in the workplace and in the home we should all help lift our partner’s dreams up into the clouds. Everyone, regardless of their gender, deserve the opportunity to reach their highest potential without fear of injury by a shattered glass ceiling.
The goal of the conference was to educate, enlighten and empower Latinas to be the best they can be. Dare I say, as a white male, I too was inspired. Inspired to help foster an environment that will encourage and support such empowerment. Not only for women of Hispanic origin – but all those who would feel threatened by a majority intent on suppressing the freedom to excel.
So to those who attended this conference and women everywhere: go ahead and extend your wings. Fly high and free into the sky – for I promise to do my part and help clear the way…
“Stay in the truck and don’t get out.”
As I looked outside the window of the fire rescue truck, the perfect storm was brewing. Car accident on the highway. A roll-over. Wearing no seatbelt, the driver was violently ejected over 30 feet onto the cold, hard pavement. Involuntarily turning my head from the window, I closed my eyes for just a moment to prepare for what was about to unfold. My mind instinctively traveled back in time to the Fire Chief’s office just a few days before.
“I’ll put you on a rescue truck for a day to see what it’s like. But the true test to see if you can do this job is the blood. You must be able to handle the blood.”
This was it – this was the test..
I opened my eyes and braced for battle. The victim was rushed in on a stretcher screaming in agony. He was just a kid – only 18 years old. But the only way I knew that was because someone had to tell me. For his face, neck and shoulders were shredded to pieces. Soaked in a layer of dark thick red blood, only thin streaks of grayish white lines were visible – his jaw bone…
“Damn it, I can see straight to his freaking trachea! No neck brace – too risky – bandages only!”, A paramedic shouted.
The paramedic held his head steady – the thick ooze now covering her hands as if they were dipped in a bucket of red paint. She was an amazing sight to witness. A rare combination of knowledge and experience – she also was able to comfort the patient with a calming voice. My mentor for the day, she was my guide, my teacher. But school was over; and the orders began:
“I need you to get me a pair of black handled scissors from that bag. Do it now.”
At my feet was a medical bag. The bag was huge with dozens of pockets, filled with supplies and equipment that all looked alien to me. I frantically started searching the pockets. After what seemed like an eternity, a pile of scissors appeared deep in one of the pockets. Different types and different colors but no black handled ones! I froze; took a deep breath and pulled myself together. In one full motion, I scooped up all of the scissors with both hands and showed her:
She pointed to a green handled one and calmly replied, “That’ll do.” and began cutting off his clothes. The orders continued.
She turned to me again,
“Goggles! Get me a pair of goggles now!”
Fortunately, while searching for the scissors earlier, I had noticed a pair of goggles in a side pocket. I reached for them quickly and handed it to her. Mistake. She hesitated for a moment and her disapproval filled the air like a hot humid summer night. Her hands were busy stabilizing his head so she had to release one hand from the patient to grab the goggles to put them on herself. At the same time, I watched a firefighter put on goggles for a medic that requested them. I made a mental note of my mistake for later but for now carried on in the moment. No time to dwell on errors right now.
As we sped toward the hospital on the highway, the truck was filled with screams of pain, cries for help and endless questions of confusion. Once we arrived at the ER, he was quickly surrounded by a crowd of nurses and doctors and then rushed into surgery.
After the situation stabilized, a group of firefighters and paramedics gathered in the hallway to discuss the accident. I stayed back from the group, uneasy of my place during this “private” ritual. Everyone turned around and stared in my direction. A firefighter called me over to the group,
“It’s ok – we’re trained for this – stress reduction, come on over.”
It was a nice feeling of belonging. We discussed the accident, then headed back out to the rescue truck and spent a good deal of time cleaning up the blood.
Back at the firehouse, the paramedic showered, changed and headed straight for the kitchen.
She saw my expression – a mix of absolute astonishment and admiration. She shrugged her shoulders,
“Oh – you get used to it…”
It was a humbling experience to know that there are heroes who do this kind of work tirelessly without any desire for fame or fortune. I have never witnessed such courage in my life that day and I am not sure if I ever will again.
It’s very easy to say that we’ll do in a time of crisis and a very different situation when we’re actually faced with it. I still don’t know how I managed to grab that pair of scissors for her in a midst of trembling hands and a queasy stomach. But I do know that the hardest part of dealing with that emergency was not the actions during the event. It was the initial decision to get on the rescue truck earlier that morning.
Those first 20 seconds of courage after a decision is made that set your actions in motion. And quite possibly change your life forever…
Social Media Day is an event where enthusiasts and experts convene to discuss insights on the industry. During the evening, which took place a few nights ago, I happened to be discussing the topic with a highly regarded expert in the field. I asked him his thoughts on the state of the technical community here in South Florida. He paused for a moment and took on a pensive expression. It was one of those moments when you knew a borderline epiphany was about to be uttered.
“You know, we are all surfers out in the water.” The small group surrounding him, including myself, braced for an intriguing explanation. He told us that we are all watching one another. Learning by observing each other’s movements and techniques. I shook my head in understanding and slowly glanced over the crowded room. Sure enough, I could identify many people who I’ve learned so much from other the past several months on so many different subjects.
When I first started attending such events I had little-to-no experience in a good amount of technical areas. But by closely watching and studying the experts in their field I began to learn and build a new skill set. Every question – no matter how novice it might have sounded –was met with a warm response and a helpful answer. This, in its truest form, is what a community is all about.
No one is omnipotent – no one can claim to be an all-knowing expert in their field. There will always be someone smarter than you, more experienced, more knowledgeable. It is only when we realize this fact, let down our ego and ask for help can we truly embrace and learn from each other.
Whatever industry you are a part of – remember that we are all just surfers gently gliding on the water. Learning and growing by carefully watching the movements and actions of others around us. So when that big wave in life arrives – we’ll be ready to take it on full force. And, perhaps, we will share our experiences with others so that they too will catch that big wave…
For the International Space Apps Challenge, Yucaroo has created a series of Public Service Announcement posters to raise awareness and clean up Space Debris.