[This is the “Ground Truths” from the Spring 2020 Issue of Two More Chains.]
By Travis Dotson
Recently, I was prompted to ask myself “Who do I want to be during this pandemic?”
I immediately recalled one of many staff ride integrations I have been so fortunate to experience.
(If you have yet to experience a staff ride, move it up on your bucket list.)
The “integration phase” of a staff ride occurs after the trauma bonding on the hill. Meaning you just physically and emotionally walked hallowed ground with fellow fire folk, collectively loosening your grip on preconceived notions formed prior to the visceral experience of touching the crosses. Blood soaked dirt will tear your heart open. And when your heart is open you are capable of considering more.
More than the facts.
More than the judgments.
More than the rules.
More than the hindsight.
Eventually your heart closes back up and the familiar armor will reinstall itself piece by piece. Our protective instincts are well honed.
But at that integration your heart is still open.
People say all kinds of stuff at integration. Most of us swing for the fences and fall a bit short of profound. Some keep it simple and so sound wise. Others wander around in left field until we side-eye them back into their seat.
But someone always goes yard with wisdom that widens your eyes. All you need is one and the night is not lost. It’s not even what is said that is magic. It’s just the coalescence of the moment and the atmosphere that seems to produce profound perspective-shifts and genuine growth.
Here is one of those moments for me.
After spending the day with two hotshot crews discussing modern day pyro-dilemmas through the context of a civil war battle on the very ground upon which soldiers suffered, I heard this:
“People are just like tea bags. You want to see what they are made of—put ‘em in hot water.”
Now, this saying, and all the variations on it, has been attributed to a multitude of people. That does not concern me. That night was the first time I’d heard it. I also admit that I am likely not recounting it exactly as it was stated. Again, not a big concern of mine. The purpose here is its effect on me at that point in time.
The impact on me was profound. Context matters, of course. I was surrounded by peers I respected and we were in the afterglow of shared struggle. The teller of the tea quote was a bad-ass grizzled Marine. The intensity of our collective care for the people beside us and the quality with which we carry out our operational endeavors was more than palpable.
At the time, my personal life had placed me in some hot water. That hot water was in the process of revealing what I was made of.
That moment inspired me to consciously foster the qualities I most admire in myself and others. I am how I behave. You can’t fake who you are. Adversity just turns the lights on. What a gift.
Hot water reveals who we are.
Right now, as a community, we are in warm water. It’s going to get hot.
Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves who we are and who we want to be.
Brew Strong, Toolswingers.