I wanted to talk about what we do when our normal lives are interrupted by emergent events. Imagine yourself in this scenario. It is a school day, you are at work and receive a call that one of your two children has forgotten their lunch at home and need you to bring it to them. They don’t have any money to buy food and the school has a strict policy about “lending” lunch to students that do not have money. It is early in the day so you figure you can run home and to their school on a break. Not ideal, but it will work out. Your break comes, you go home, retrieve the forgotten lunch and make your way to the school. When you arrive you walk across the parking lot and notice a car in the fire lane with its door open thinking to yourself you could have saved some time if you did the same thing, but you obey the law. As you approach the entrance to the school you see glass from the broken front door all over the place, and think where the janitor to clean up this mess is. You make your way inside and hear balloons popping from a party or something. As you look around for the receptionist you notice she is on the ground behind her desk. She has terror in her eyes. It is then you realize this is not a normal day.
This situation actually happened to a mother at Sandy Hook Elementary. She overlooked warning signs and convinced herself; the car in the fire lane was somebody dropping something off, the broken glass was the result of an accident that had not been addressed and the popping sounds were from a party or festival. This is not a judgement piece. Most of us would react and do react the same way to things that happen to us every day. That is not to say we walk into violent crimes, but when we see or hear something out of the ordinary we convince ourselves everything is normal and move on. We know about how we react on most days. How do we get to a point where we are not minimizing and rationalizing things that are out of the ordinary?
One of the first steps we can take is the practice of being aware. Or, the practice of being an active participant in our own lives. It starts with observation. Being an observant person can take a lifetime to master and those who have mastered it have an incredible skill. If you are not an inherently observant person how would you begin? First, try eliminating distractions like phones and electronics. Constantly staring down or into screens is not a good way to see the world. Second, have a plan. Having a plan may sound like something you have to do days in advance to prepare for a trip to the grocery store, it is not. It is about knowing what you want to accomplish. Where you can accomplish the task and what to expect while; going to, completing and returning from the task. Third, give yourself an observant activity. Let us say you like shoes. Try to spot the most; expensive, unique, ugliest… shoes. You will find that as you eliminate distraction, plan and give yourself an activity you will become an active participant in the world around you. As you practice these thing you will begin to notice things about; the places you go, the people you seen and their interaction with the world. With enough practice you will take note of things that fall outside the norm. I suggest that when you do notice these things try to realize that something is not normal for a reason and use your judgement whether or not further action is needed to protect yourself or others.