The images are stark – so much so, I struggle to find words to adequately describe the devastation. The destruction and chaos are undeniable and brutal. Like most of the rest of the world, for the last two weeks I have watched in disbelief and horror as the events in Japan have unfolded like some out-of-this-world disaster movie that simply cannot be real. And sadly, dreadfully, those events are exactly that – real. Unimaginable. Devastating.
In the span of just a few hours beginning at about 2:46 PM local time, the northern coast of Japan was rocked by an earthquake of magnitude 8.9, bludgeoned by a tsunami that killed thousands and swept away everything in its path – devastating the countryside miles inland – followed by the failure of a nuclear reactor which today continues to threaten the area for many miles around.
If it weren’t happening in front of our eyes, we might tend to think it was a Hollywood disaster movie; one of epic – even Biblical – proportions. Every day it would seem that we are reminded of the forces of nature in some way. This reminder is of such magnitude that it shakes us to our core.
And, somehow in the midst of all this tragedy, destruction, and fear, we see the indelible mark of hope. It’s present in the survivors who, even in the midst of hunger, thirst, homelessness, and uncertainty, continue to reach out to each other to help whenever and wherever possible. It’s evident in the calm lines of people who are waiting for what little food, water, and shelter are available. It’s present in the faces of people living in the shelters and in their words as they continue to focus not on what has happened to them, but rather on what they can do to begin the work of rebuilding their country.
“… the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
- Viktor E. Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Holocaust survivor
We know about stories of triumph that reach us through the news media – the teacher who helps rescue students trapped by raging waters inside a school, the freeing of a grandmother and grandson from the rubble where they were trapped for 9 days – and countless others that we may never hear of. What is most consoling to me, though, is the level of civility, calm, and outright hope for the future that seems to permeate the Japanese people despite the tragedy that has befallen them.
As I watch this compelling and life-affirming behavior, I have to wonder to myself, “Could I be this dignified, this consoling, this willing to help others were I in the same situation?” I would like to think yes. And at the same time, I hope that I never have to be put to that same test.
I think of how incongruent the scenes of devastation when played out in the midst of such loving sacrifice and contribution by those who have been so dramatically impacted. When I view my own challenges and frustrations through this lens, I realize I have so little to be truly angry or alarmed about, and so much to be grateful and hopeful about. It reminds me that truly, each and every day we have a choice in life. To choose sadness, victimization, self-pity, and anger, or to choose faith, service, happiness, and hope. What have you chosen up until now? What will you now choose?
Quit being an average leader! Take the FREE Leadership Assessment.
Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work