I’m fortunate to have spent many years working closely with military people all over the world.
Early in my career, I worked for an American university based in Europe and lived in a divided Germany before the Berlin wall came down. I looked into the eyes of people who lived on the other side of “the wall” and found despair. I also looked into the eyes of Soviet border guards and knew that the wall would come down. I knew it within my deepest humanity – though for reasons I still can’t articulate. I knew that a deeper human dimension would prevail in Eastern Europe and that our military people were there to hold the space open until that could happen.
After several years in Europe, the university where I was employed transferred me to Okinawa, Japan, where I continued to work with the American military stationed there. I eventually met the man, an active-duty Marine, who would become my husband. This extended exposure to other cultures and belief systems early in my life helped to broaden my perspective and deepen my appreciation of those in our military services.
After returning to the United States, I worked for Everett Alvarez, Jr. Mr. Alvarez is best known as the first American shot down over Vietnam and the longest-held POW in American history. His deep humility about this experience had a profound impact on me. The simple intention that sustained him and his fellow prisoners through eight and a half years of brutal captivity: Return with Honor. During my years with Mr. Alvarez’s company, I absorbed the lessons offered by this quiet hero; not as concepts, but as a living, breathing model of wisdom and integrity.
Eventually, I took what I learned from my military mentors and applied it in business where I had the privilege of working with executives all over the world. I noticed that some reached the pinnacle of success and yet experienced a sense of emptiness… a gap. What I witnessed for many of these executives was that gap filled when they could serve – when they chose to commit to something bigger and go beyond themselves.
In David Brooks’s book, The Second Mountain, the author speaks of two different mountains. The first mountain is the life of what we’re told is success and then something happens that throws us in the valley, which breaks us open to the second mountain, a life of giving oneself away in service.
This is exactly the dynamic I observed with these top global executives and it has inspired me personally and professionally for many years.
Another person who profoundly influenced me is my older brother who has spent 40 years in the field of Law Enforcement. While he could easily retire at any time, he continues in his role because he is needed now more than ever and because he is committed to being of service to his community and his profession.
What these individuals all have in common is that they live with a heart of service.
I believe that being of service is a normal, natural state of being – it reflects the highest attributes that we possess as human beings, but those who choose to commit their entire lives in service to others are exceptional indeed. Law Enforcement and First Responders are no exception.
They are willing to commit to something bigger than themselves. They will confront the deepest fears known to humans, they will be asked to risk their lives or give their lives, they will step into fire and into the line of fire, they are willing to traverse the edges of what human beings are capable of — both good and evil — and all of this they do — in service.
I recognize that this is a sensitive topic and we are having a national debate that has become weaponized – but that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about the people I know and have met and their commitment to service.
What I am asking you to consider today is what might it look like, what might it mean and. What might be different for the future of law enforcement and first responders if we exemplified and prioritized those values of service in:
- how we support them
- their training
- how we enable them to serve within their communities
- how we communicate – speak, act, AND listen
- how we work together
- how we view them
- what we demand of them.
We must change this conversation. There is inherent nobility in a willingness to serve and to experience the bonds that can be created when we go beyond the boundaries of self-preservation. Our Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders need and deserve our support.
I am reminded of the words of Albert Pike, the author, orator, and poet, who said “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
We are moving into a new frontier, creating a new future; one that I believe makes it possible to heal, to move forward, and to re-connect at that very human level using the heart of service as a guide that will leave a lasting, positive impact on the world.
InteraWorks continues to support those who serve others in our community and our world through the Best Year Yet Foundation. Join us in helping to change the world.
Managing Partner & Director of Practice