I’ve read heroes described as people who run toward danger instead of away from it. They are the firemen who run into burning buildings. They are the people who snatch children out of the path of speeding cars. You get the idea.
I thought about this today after an experience I had on Facebook. I was tagged into a rescue conversation early this morning about a pair of dogs who had been found in Portage County. Meet Bert and Ernie.
These two little guys were found in the woods near a cage from which they had escaped. Somebody had abandoned them there, inside of a cage that had been duct taped closed. The people who found them rounded them up and took them home, then contacted a friend of theirs who is a rescuer. That person started a conversation on Facebook and tagged a bunch of other rescue people, including me. The conversation was meant to mobilize our community to get these boys to safety. By day’s end, they were safe with JJRuff Roads rescue in Stark County.
Two little dogs abandoned inside of a duct taped cage in the woods. I wish I could say that this was a highly unusual case — that people are not usually this cruel — but I can’t. It’s just another case in a never-ending stream of cruel things people do to pets. Many times far more cruel than this.
Sometimes the circumstances really bother me. Sometimes I dwell on the stories for days, unable to get them out of my head. But more often than not the story behind the circumstance is the last thing I am interested in. Once these guys were safe, I posted them on my Facebook page explaining the circumstances and with a shout out to everyone who worked on getting them safe. Then, some of my friends began posting comments of outrage that someone could do such a thing to these two precious dogs. I’m glad to know I have empathetic friends.
That’s when I started to think about the difference between action and reaction; what makes people heroes, and what makes people rescuers. The comments on my post were reactions. The people commenting weren’t rescuers, they were just people disgusted by the story of abandonment. That they reacted is not unusual – most people react.
But rescuers are different. Rescuers act. Part of acting means that you have to let go of how the situation makes you feel, suspend your anger, figure out what needs to happen, and then work to make it happen. This is what rescuers do on a daily basis – shove the horror and disgust way down deep and focus on the task. There’s time for screaming into the void later.
I realized today that not everyone is capable of that. The heart of a rescuer is strong and fearless.
I wonder what we are running toward.