This weekend, I spent a lot of time photographing a crossfit fundraiser. The fundraiser was a memorial for the 9-11 attacks in New York City. The WOD (remember, workout of the day) had 343 reps to signify the number of first responders who lost their lives that day. People were encouraged to do the workout wearing gear- it could be fire, military, police, etc. There are a lot of firefighters who crossfit, so we were fortunate enough to have many uniforms for people to borrow.
Not only could you wear a uniform, but there were different levels of uniform people wore. Some people just wore the pants, or the pants and jacket, or the pants, jacket, and helmet, and some even wore their masks and oxygen tanks as well. There were bullet proof vests, weighted vests, jumpsuits, boots, hard hats- it was incredible.
I actually started typing this in the morning and got writer's block (that, and my three sons had football games I needed to go to).
During the game, I got really mad because a few loud parents were ruining my experience at my son's game- which, by the way, my sons are 8, 9, and 11- so none of them are paid professionals. These parents, with their beer guts and wheezy lungs are sitting there yelling furiously at their kids for missing plays or congratulating them on a vicious tackle. "Bring him down again, then he won't ever want to touch the ball, you'll show him!" Yes, that is a quote I heard.
It dawned on me how easy it is to know how to play a game when you are not playing it. The play would have been perfect if they just did it your way, or better yet, you were in there doing it for them.
After the game, it finally came to me- we spend a lot of life on the side lines. It's so easy to be on the outside looking in, wishing, hoping, judging, coaching, telling, all knowing- it's just so easy to know what to do when it's not you.
How many times have you heard someone complain about a cop or an emergency worker, how the ambulance driver could have done this or that, or if I were that person, I would do it this way. It is just so darn easy to do it right when you don't have to do it at all.
The military, the news can give them such a bad rep -
Read The Lone Survivor- READ IT- Don't watch the movie, read the book!!! I saw the movie and it is completely different than the book. That book has changed my life- sometimes I try to imagine myself in a scenario from the book, even just sleeping outside in the dark in my own yard with no tent or sleeping bag- can't even. His discussion on the rules of engagement and the media's perception of their combat decisions is incredible- it's the basis for the whole entire situation the book is written about.
Back to the workout. Why bother? Because we need to get off the side lines, we need to put ourselves in the positions of others sometimes to gain a better understanding and appreciation of how difficult their jobs can be.
My oldest son is 11. What if he passed out or got seriously hurt, could I lift him- Oh heck yes! Could you lift a person? Could you bust down a door or break a window. Could you run up the stairs in a smoke filled house? Could you chase a criminal down the street?
Now, put your gear on, can you still perform these same actions?
Two years ago, I photographed this same event- it was about one month after joining this particular crossfit box. I thought it was cool but honestly, I did not understand the true meaning.
Yesterday, I truly understood the meaning.
Have you ever heard the phrase "until you've walked in their shoes"? Well, until you've walked in a first responder's shoes, I don't think you can ever truly imagine how heroic their jobs are. Participating in this event, wearing only a fraction of what they wear- it deepened my appreciation of all first responders and what they are willing to risk for us.
They do not get to choose the color of their shoes, or the weather or the time of day, or how long after they eat, what height they can jump, what distance they can run, which weight they are going to carry, they are put in a situation and have to go with it. I could recognize the first responders that crossfit, because they were able to move faster and swifter with their gear on, they were able to make their oxygen tank last longer. In a perfect world, all first responders would be crossfitters (or at least my perfect world).
Take the time this week to thank people you know who are first responders, who have served, who risk their lives for yours, who go undercover to keep drugs away from our kids, who leave their families safe at home to make sure yours are too, who don't get to choose their conditions. Take a moment to walk in someone else's shoes.
I recommend finding a hero to read about or talk with. Listen to their story, and their conditions. Think about how you would or would not have been able to handle it. Find a situation you are in that you are struggling with and use that hero's story to summon the courage to get through yours.
Strength comes from within. We all have the capability to handle things we don't even know are going to happen- we can never prepare fully for these things, but heck if I'm going to sit around on the sidelines day in and day out. I'm getting out of my chair and I'm going in for the play. You can too!