IMAGINE Magazine-Spring2016 - Page 15

THE HEROIC IMPULSE BY WIB MIDDLETON I t is a bone-chilling, dark December night in 2015. The beaches of Lesvos, Greece, are strewn with tens of thousands of worthless, bright orange “life” jackets—just another scam foisted upon refugees fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries. It is not unusual to see as many as 2,000 refugees a day attempt the watery journey from Turkey to the shores of Greece. Embarking on boats and dinghies that are overcrowded and often break down, it’s a real gamble as to whether the refugees will make it the seven miles to their destination. The unimaginable death toll by drowning hits 3,000 in 2015. Zoë Wild, a young American woman, stands on the beach looking out to sea with another woman from Sweden. Tonight they’re it, just the two of them, hopeful that they can guide refugees, often 80 plus in a rub- ber boat, to a safe landing. The fate of the refugees is literally in their hands. Abandoned on the Turkish shore by smugglers, it is anyone’s guess who is navigating the boats, or if they even know how. Zoë scans the horizon looking for the faintest light from cellphones held high by refugees. The onshore signal to the refugees is the quick on-off flash of headlights. It’s illegal to signal the boats. They have to be stealthy. It’s crude, but effective. You might be wondering at this point what forces are at play that would cause someone to be moved into selfless action by a terrible tragedy thousands of miles away and actually take the next step to do something. Where does that heroic impulse come from that propels one from empathy to compassionate action? Often we feel the pain of another in our gut, and tears testify that we care. But then the phone rings, or we get a text, and the news report that so moved us is over, and that tender moment fades as we move on to the next thing. Taking the next step,—showing up with an authentic, heartfelt commitment to help is a whole other story. Zoë Wild, a successful thirtysomething entrepreneur, grief counselor, workshop facilitator in conflict resolution and trauma, with a lifelong bent for volunteering and saying “yes,” had planned to spend time around Christmas in front of a fire reading books in her cozy Sedona home. She needed to chill. Her mother was battling cancer, she had spent Thanksgiving with family, and this was to be her alone time. In mid-November she began seeing posts from some of her 5000 Facebook friends about the Syrian refugee crisis. Heart-wrenching images and videos of traumatized families and bodies washing up on the shore of a IMAGINE l SPRING 2016 15