I was two months into my first Command tour when the call came in. It was the call I hoped would never happen but, in the back of my head, knew would eventually come. As the senior Naval Officer in my area, one of my responsibilities was to make the notification to next of kin when a Navy member passed and now it was time. A young Sailor had gotten killed and I had to go tell his mother that her son wasn’t coming home.
My heart raced as I recorded the details from headquarters and I wondered how I was going to be able to handle this duty. This wasn’t something I wanted to do nor was it something that I was prepared to do. I mean, I had gone through the training on the “what and how” to go about doing this but it wasn’t something that was conducive to my personality type – I am a nice guy…a joker…I have never liked giving bad news (especially news like this).
We all face things that we don’t want to do or are scared to do. My fear on this was deep. I would have done just about anything to have this taken from me and given to someone else. However, that was not the case nor was it going to happen.
Have you had similar situations? The situation that must be done, you don’t want to do it, but you’re the only person that can do it? Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s stepping into it. How do you step into it?
Think Best Case/Worst Case
Worry and fear can cloud our mental processes and this is what happened to me. This notification was unlike anything I had to do before. I had faced tough situations before but it was never personal. It was a mission I had to do. Since this was personal, my mind was all over the place on how it was going to go. A series of “what if” scenarios flashed through my head – clouding what I was supposed to do. To see clearly, I had to break this down into best case and worst case scenarios. This helped me through the worry and fear of what had to be done and see just two. Best case, this happens…worst case, that happens. This clarity helped get a new perspective. Most of the stuff we worry about never materializes.
Personal perspective makes all the difference in being able to get through any challenge. My initial perspective on this, however human, was all wrong. This wasn’t something that anyone could do. This was something that I was given the honor to do. My duty was to take care of one of our own Navy members and his family. Once I realized this, my perspective changed from one of sympathy to that of empathy. What would I want for my family if the situation was the same? How would I want them to be notified? How would I want them to be treated? Changing my perspective changed everything. It enabled me to act according to my beliefs and be “there” for those who needed me. In essence, I had to step out of my own way in order to step forward.
Even if we’re given something that is trying or that we don’t want to do, it should still be done with all of our heart. Before I went to the door to make this notification, I committed to myself that I would be the best representative I could be for this family. I owed it to this service member, I owed it to the Navy and (most importantly) I owed it to this family. They had given one of their own to secure what so many of us take for granted. When we commit from your heart it shows in every word that is said and every action that is taken.
Even with this mindset, my heart still raced as I knocked on the door, but I knew I was going to help this family through this trying time and I did. As I stated at the beginning, we all face times of trial. Those are the times we may feel like we don’t have the answers and that we don’t know if we can handle what we were just given. Even though this sounds crazy, those are the times we can be at our personal best. We just need to see the issue for what it is, have the right perspective, and commit to working from our heart. I came out of this experience stronger than I was before and, no matter what situation comes YOUR way, you will too. Don’t walk away from it, step into it!