Surviving Disasters, Making the Right Moves

(photo by Oleg Klementiev)

I checked off a box on my bucket list over Christmas. I skydived out of a perfectly good airplane…with an instructor. He pulled the ripcord, a good thing for both of us in avoiding a disaster.

Safely on the ground, I reflected on the experience. Crazily, I thought it had lessons applicable to Food for the Hungry (FH).

Not that being involved with FH is particularly hazardous or something generally to be avoided – but there were some common thoughts and emotions with people who survive disasters.

The first was surprise. You see, this crafty instructor didn’t actually ask me to jump. He had me put my feet out the door, then made some kind of sign to the pilot. The pilot turned the plane sideways—and we both fell out. On the ground, I asked the instructor why he did it that way. “Saves a lot of negotiation with first-time jumpers,” said he dryly.

The second emotion was coping with fear. After I’d had a few words of instruction, I used my common sense not to obstruct the efforts of my instructor. He’d told me to wrap my arms across my chest, then fling them wide on his signal. And I did.

The third emotion was relief. With the sound of a whoosh, the parachute opened. We glided to a safe landing at a predetermined spot.

The fourth emotion was gratitude. Gratitude to the tandem jump instructor who truly saved our lives with his expertise. Gratitude to the licensed parachute packer, who carefully folded the chute. Gratitude to the crew that picked us up and carried us back to the airport.

And it occurred to me that FH triggers similar emotions of gratitude in those we help after disasters. On this fourth anniversary of the Haitian earthquake and the recent typhoon in the Philippines, I believe survivors felt that same gratitude for the quality of help received. The feeling of appreciation for being in the trained hands of experts when survival depended on those experts making the right moves and judgements.

I can imagine that disaster survivors felt surprise, fear and relief at living through earthquakes and typhoons.

And gratitude to those who brought help quickly and efficiently…like our local staff who went right to work. It meant our international staff, especially those who train for this sort of event, flying on a moment’s notice to someplace in the world to help hurting people. They truly are God’s shock troops.

Finally, there’s gratitude to those FH supporters who made the quality of our work possible. Perhaps you’re one. Like the chain of people who helped me to safely jump from an airplane, your support made the difference.

Not just in Haiti. But in Syria. And in the Philippines. And in scores of other emergency situations since the founding of our agency in 1971. Thank you for being a part of our team and bringing life-saving care to those who need it.

About Barry Gardner

Barry Gardner is the Chief Financial Officer at FH. He joined FH in 2010 after a 20 year career as a financial consultant to non-profit organizations. He and his wife Susan live in Phoenix, where Barry enjoys year-round cycling weather.

, , , , , , ,