Recently, I had the profound honor of presenting to an amazing group. The folks at the Sexual Assault Resource Council of Oregon (SARC) provide both preventive education and crisis response services. In my view, they are real-life heroes.
However, I consistently get an interesting reaction from others, when I mention this engagement: Most folks seem to find that even the group’s name, “Sexual Assault Resource Council” brings to mind the worst of human vileness, and so they cringe away from having to think about it at all.
Yet the people at SARC, who actually confront these ugliest of realities every day, appeared not just professional, but also relaxed, friendly, cheerful, and energetic.
In pre-talk interviews, they told me:
“We love the fact that we share passion and deep knowledge about this field.”
“We rely on each other.”
“We expect each other to bring our best selves.”
It was also clear to me that SARC’s leaders spend considerable energy on supporting their people. For instance: they invested money and time to massively improve the computer infrastructure that makes SARC's work possible. They provide continuing education. They encourage daily self-care. They create a work atmosphere of mindfulness and compassion.
In short, I was heartened and impressed by the emotional health of this non-profit organization. Everyone there knows that taking care of each other is what makes it possible for them to serve their clients.
Even so, this group was thirsty for more knowledge and reinforcement of anti-burnout habits and skills.
Which didn’t surprise me at all.
Because real-life hero work is demanding. Hero work often must go forward when the resources are inadequate to the scale of the problem. Hero work can put us nose to nose with pain and distress.
Real-life hero work requires us to expend our energy in compassion, mindfulness and courage.
The truth is, any hero requires a ton of support. We must recharge our batteries, process and clear the secondary trauma. Rest and recover.
The fact that we need and require that support is not selfish. It’s not a diversion of resources from the neediest.
It’s not even optional.
So, thank you, people of SARC, for your passionate dedication. And thank you for recognizing that supporting each other’s needs for relief and care is an integral part of your work.
Thank you for being compassionate, whole human beings: that is how real-life heroes roll.