How often do you run inside when it rains? Until a few years ago, my answer would have been “Always.” But then I had the privilege of interviewing a military veteran, and he changed my perspective. Since it’s Memorial Day, I want to share what this brave man taught me.
Getting wet is unlikely to kill you, unless you’re the Wicked Witch of the West. Even getting soaked is, at worst, an inconvenience. You will look like a drowned rat and your mascara, should you happen to be wearing it, will leave black rivers on your cheeks. (I know this from sad experience, though I wiped away most of the mascara rivers before snapping this picture.)
One veteran’s story
Getting wet is also unlikely to kill members of the military on active duty.
Standing in an open field while snipers from the other side lurk in the trees lining an open field—that can kill you. Yet that’s exactly what the veteran I interviewed did.
Was he crazy? Nope. He did it very intentionally. And it helped get the soldiers in his charge out of a tough situation.
His troop had sustained some casualties and settled in an open field where the evacuation helicopters could find them. They had some air cover, which kept the other side from attacking them outright. But still, it was a scary situation. Not too many places to hide when you’re in an open field.
That’s when my veteran remembered a conversation he’d had when he was younger. A father or father-figure talked to him about the absurdity of running from the rain. “When I’m walking and it starts to rain,” the man said, “I deliberately slow down. I want the people I’m with to see there’s nothing to be scared of here.”
And so my veteran got up and stood in the middle of the open field—standing in the rain, metaphorically. And he walked over to each group of people huddled around the field, chatted with them, made sure they were thinking positive thoughts. Like his mentor, he sent the message, “There’s nothing to be scared of here.”
We each live with fear; it’s hard-wired into the most ancient part of our brain. The challenge, I think, is to sort out danger (enemy snipers in the trees) from inconvenience (mascara running into your eyes). Real fear (snipers) from imaginary (releasing your writing into the world).
The cliché says “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Stand in the rain—take a risk. For those of us not in the military, it’s not likely to be lethal.
And for those who are in the military—thank you.
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Also published on Medium.