Doing A Little Less
By Joel Bates
Every three years, I re-certify my medical training as a Wilderness-First-Responder (WFR), but my first “woofer,” as we call it, was quite comical. Our instructor carried around a small video recorder to capture the magic on film. As he filmed one session, I was trying to learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver on a simulated choking victim. Our instructor said, “Get behind the victim, wrap your arms around him, and start pumping.” This effort would force the blockage out. So I was doing just that, furiously pumping, when the victim decided my time was up and proceeded to “pass out” onto the ground. With my victim slumping down, I thought it best to continue the pumping gyrations, now from under his 200-pound frame. Soon, I was the one needing the resuscitation! (Luckily for me, the instructor was laughing so hard that the video turned out too shaky to identify clearly that I was the one buried under the massive choking man.) Then, to my humiliation, the instructor said, “Let me show you an easier way,” and he proceeded simply to apply the simulated chest compressions from above the prone victim. In the moment, I felt pretty sheepish, but I did learn how not to do the Heimlich maneuver if the victim faints. I was able to impart this new knowledge to whole class later, too, as we watched the video together. There was no shortage of critique. I learned my lesson well. Now when I see a choking victim, I just go find the nearest WFR instructor!
During these WFR courses, we students have to pass a closely scrutinized, major trauma simulation, involving numerous simulated victims with a myriad of possible life-threatening problems. What makes an already intense evaluation worse is that the victims are other classmates—usually ornery Discovery Ministries staff who delight in making things difficult. We, the rescuers, wait anxiously in the classroom while the instructor sets up the simulation. Then he or she will direct us to the accident scene to make sense of the simulated chaos awaiting. (I make it a point to avoid the choking victims!)
Years ago during my first WFR course, a fellow student saw my hands shaking from nervousness just before the “sim” began and spoke words of wisdom I’ve not forgotten—wisdom that has made a huge difference. “Remember, man,” the long-haired, outdoorsy hippie said, “Don’t just do something….Stand there for a second.” I blinked in confusion, as his surprising counsel sank in. I had presumed that the most effective way to help people would be to rush into the mayhem and stop the bleeding or fix the broken leg or attend to the pain of a screaming patient. Usually when I stormed in like this, I’d end up making costly mistakes and, sometimes, even create more confusion. It was only when I disciplined myself to stop, survey the scene, and look beyond the glaring crisis to assess the deeper problems that I could prescribe the best course of action.
This past year has been like that for the DM staff and me. We were in a meeting last winter trying to figure out how to address some obvious, potential problems looming in the future when all of a sudden, I remembered the sage advice, “Don’t just do something….Stand there a second.” In that meeting, I proposed a course of action that quite honestly shocked everyone. Uncharacteristic of my driven nature, I suggested, “What if we just try to do less? What if we don’t focus on doing something, but just take a while to stand here?”
I clearly see now how I’ve been digging spiritual wells for others and myself for years, but rarely taking time just to sit beside those dug wells and drink deeply. I think most of us like to do things that feel productive. We like to make stuff and see progress. Doing can mean achieving, and achieving is often the trophy by which we define our success and worth.
But, even Jesus needed to rest. Constantly surrounded by multitudes of needy people, Jesus found it hard even to get a lunch break. Perhaps one reason He often told people to keep secret the miracle He’d just performed in their lives was that His fame was spreading so fast He couldn’t apply a value that He’d had since creation—the value of rest. On the seventh day of creation He rested. During His ministry, Jesus often withdrew to solitary places. He invited His disciples to cross to the other side of the lake, thus escaping the demanding crowds. He even rested in the grave three days between his death and resurrection. Jesus calls us, weary and heavy-laden, to come take His yoke upon ourselves because it is light, and we will find rest for our souls. What a great Leader we have! What a compassionate Master He is.
So at DM, we have been practicing the discipline of doing less. We believe that in doing less, we will be able to do a few things better, like becoming better people who listen, so we can hear the Shepherd’s voice; better people of purpose, so we can minister with greater intentionality; better people who rest, so our work is fueled with more energy. From this decision to do less—to stand and look, listen and learn—we have seen a tremendous yield already. In the next few blogs, we’ll give some reports of what we’ve discovered and how we are applying it.
1/15/2020 02:46:30 pm
Curious article, Joel, this kind of action or may I say non-action is found threaded through out Nature. Only there it is called “conservation of energy”. In Nature, any action on the part of an animal that does not produce food for survival or evasion from a predictor usual can mean death. So, they take their time to observe and then act.
1/16/2020 10:39:14 am
Joel, thank you for sharing your treasure.
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