May 282015 3 Responses

The Power of a Second Responder

First responders are heroes.

As panic sets in, danger is high, and everyone begins to run from the scene, a first responder receives the call. With little thought of themselves, they selflessly run to the event and attempt to serve.

With expertise, skill, discernment, and courage, a first responder attempts to assist a situation in whichever way possible.

  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • EMTs
  • Soldiers
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Security personnel

Are all first responders. (See: You Don’t Know That I’ll Be Fine)

But they aren’t the only responders. There is a second wave of responders who cannot (and should not) react when an event first occurs. If they ran to the scene, they would be placing themselves in unnecessary danger, hindering the efforts of the experts, and endangering those who need help.

The second responders arrive when the danger is eliminated, the initial trauma is concluded, and the physical threat is gone. They appear when the emotional needs of the victim rise to the surface. As the first responders leave, the second responders take over.

Never underestimate the power of a second responder.

I recently listened to a world-class doctor telling of his sleepless nights considering the next day’s demands. Dealing with the most complicated of cases, the doctor was well aware the outcomes could go either way. While he didn’t feel the ultimate weight of a person’s life in his hands, he was very aware that his choices and ability could greatly impact a person’s future.

It’s a weight I cannot fully appreciate. (See: Old Gas Stations, Dry Squeegees, and the Grace of God)

The work of first responders cannot be underestimated. Many risk their lives to save those in need. Others do not risk their physical lives, but they put their emotional well-being on the line, hoping to see miracles in the operating room or other fields of service. Life and death often hang in the balance.

As I heard the doctor talk about the emotional toll of trying to save lives, the thought hit me—”no matter the outcome, the church will be there.” Whether the surgery is a success or a failure, good people will come alongside the patient and her family, trying to take care of their basic needs. If it is a success, the church will walk beside the family through an extended hospital stay, rehab, and readjustment to life. They will cook meals, make visits, run errands, and do whatever possible to help.

Yet if the surgery is not successful and the patient dies, the church will be there. Good people will run to the aid of the family, offering comfort, walking through the grief, doing acts of kindness and service to remind the family they are not alone.

It’s the work of a second responder. While not nearly as heroic as a first responder, it is still vitally important.

A first responder saves a life, but a second responder helps the person put their life back together.

Never underestimate your role as a second responder. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

We’ve had a string of funerals at the church the last few weeks. It hasn’t been an unusual season, just a few more deaths than normal. What has encouraged me are the amount of people playing the role of a second responder. They show up, rarely knowing what to do, often knowing there is nothing specific they can do, but they show up. They communicate love, community, and friendship. They bring food or flowers or just a hand shake. But they are there. They are being second responders.

Some downplay the role of a second responder because it isn’t as dramatic as a first responder. Others overlook the role because they are uncomfortable with the uncertainty of what to do. Yet if we can embrace the lack of clarity and appreciate the absence of a spotlight, we can provide a tremendous service to people.

When crisis hits, we need help. How grateful I am to live in a place where many people have dedicated their lives as first responders. At a moment’s notice, they will drop everything to lend another person aide.

But when a crisis ends, our needs are not less. We need second responders who help us put our lives back together in the midst of love, community, and encouragement.

If you have the skills, be a first responder. But if you lack the skills, you can choose the courage of being a second responder.


3 Responses to The Power of a Second Responder
  1. […] Last week in my hometown, two officers responded to a routine call–a son pulled a gun on a fat...

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