This is a guest post written by Michele Buc – a long-time friend, fellow Mac user and Strengths advocate. Michele teaches college-level communication courses in Nashville. She’s also the only person I know who has taught college courses on a US Navy aircraft carrier.
Michele sent me the following in an email and I asked for her permission to use it as a blog post. Other than scrubbing out names for privacy, this is what she wrote:
I was thinking the other day about something that happened to me that is actually a study in strengths. Since we think of our strengths in the workplace, and we think about “choosing” to use them or focus on them more, I wondered what it would be like if we were only allowed to use our strengths? In essence, forced to use them and nothing else?
What if we were confronted with a situation that forced us to only use your strengths? Would that help us see what they were?
Here’s what happened to me, and it has provided an allegory to me for strengths since then:
In 2007, I was traveling by car with friends.
As I drove in the rural parts of East TN, the road which descended from the mountains was I-81. Because there were no towns and few exits at this stretch of interstate, we all had our cruise controls set at 75-80mph. It was a sunny day, so all the cars were cruising along nicely.
Suddenly, about a football field-length ahead of me, I saw a car flipping in the air. It flipped and rolled several times. I’d never seen anything like it in real life – only in the movies. I was so shocked by the sight that I then had to slam over to the side of the road and hit the brakes in order to stop where the car crash ended.
Once we ground to a stop, my friend and I jumped out and ran frantically to the overturned car. The first thing I saw was a young girl’s body sprawled on the ground.
I was thankful to see she wasn’t crushed inside her car. She lay on her belly, and was moving a bit. Immediately, I remembered that medical personnel have always warned us to not move a crash victim, in case there is a spine injury. I saw her move her hand, so I thought it was a blessing that she was alive.
The rest of the time ran in slow motion. Other motorists stopping, searching for other victims, finding the purse and cell phone of the victim….. and the arrival of off-duty first-responders. As we were ushered aside by the professionals, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. All went well, and this girl wasn’t dead.
Two days later, I found out differently.
My friend sent me a link to the small town newspaper nearest the crash. Our wreck was front page news for that small paper, and the victim had died in the hospital, after her life flight trip.
I raged and sank into despair. “God, why did you put me there first, when I clearly was not a medical professional?” “Was I supposed to move her, but didn’t?” I had the most helpless feeling, knowing there was not one thing I could have done differently, as I had no medical training.
I cried, raged, and yelled at God. Why would He be so cruel as to allow me to have hope, only to find out that there had never been any hope? And I must have been the last person that needed to be at that crash scene. Why did God put me there when He knew I couldn’t do anything useful?
I read the newspaper story over and over. At the end of the story, the name of the funeral home was listed, as well as their web address. So, I clicked there to learn more info. At the side of the funeral home web page, there was a link for an “online guest book.” Suddenly, I heard God say, “Now, use YOUR strength.”
One of my Strengths is “Input.” For a living, I report information, provide analysis, and describe things to other people. All at once, I realized that I needed to do that now, for the parents of the girl. I began writing: “To the family of Jane Doe, I was one of the first motorists to stop at your daughter’s crash on Tuesday…..” I gave the story, let them know how hard everyone worked, and signed my name on the digital guest book.
Less than a week later, the girl’s mother tracked me down, and called me at home. “This is Jane Doe’s mom…” she said.
“I’m glad you called,” I said.
It was an hour-long conversation. The grieving mother wanted to know every last detail. What was her daughter wearing, did she seem in pain? I made sure to tell her that her daughter was not alone on the side of the road. People stopped right away and everyone had worked together to comfort her daughter and help the crisis. She thanked me, and we said goodbye.
I’m not a medical professional. That’s not my strength, talent, skill, or education. But I do work with words everyday. I gather and provide information to other people – students, clients, co-workers, bosses. I do that verbally and in written form. That is my strength. God knew that. And he put me in a situation to use my Input strength.
And I am forever grateful.
Nashville State Community College