Given the vitriolic verbiage that spews from twitter feeds, angry demonstrations, and from protesting groups, my heart often sinks into concern that we have lost the human characteristic of compassion.
However, a recent incident renewed my faith in what we can do for each other when we plunge into action in a time of need AND taught me a valuable lesson.
The setting: Maligne Canyon, a natural 160-foot deep gorge in the Jasper National Park in Jasper, Alberta. Steep paths and five bridges allow hikers to delve deep into the heart of the earth as Karst topography melts before the onslaught of water.The day was damp, overcast and the paths easily slipped away if one was not careful.
We came to a woman on her back, husband and young daughter surrounding her. Her leg was immobilized and she was holding her head up.
"OMG - what happened? How can I help?" I blurted out.
The husband said someone had already called for a rescue. It appears she had tried to get out of the way of a tour group coming down the trail and in the process, slipped and-it-appeared… broke her ankle.
"There were instantly three Iranian doctors in the group," said her husband. "They came and did what they could for her leg, gave her a pain pill and wrote down the name of it so I could show the paramedics."
I didn't have anything to help prop her head up and she said vertigo just hit if she tried to put it down. She was trembling from cold, pain and - I suspect - fear. I knelt beside her and talked her through taking deep, slow, breaths. It stopped the trembling. We told them we'd check back when we turned around since the trail was narrow and God knows how paramedics would get down.
About 15 minutes later we returned. This time, an Asian man from another tour group was tucking her in the metallic emergency blanket he carried. He went back down the trail and came back with hand warmers. She started to cry and ask if she could give him a hug. Just then the amazing paramedics came… five of them with a stretcher on wheels that had to be lifted over the rocks as her husband exclaimed, "The kindness of strangers!"
OK: my lesson. My blind spot. I had been grumpy about "the tour groups" that crowd things in the park. I was a model of unconscious bias. In that instance, I saw how my initial reactions to tour groups totally discounted the humanity that resides in all of us. Shame on me. A lesson in many ways.