I’ve been thinking a lot about a story a friend shared over tea one day.
A man was leading a cave tour somewhere in Texas when he sensed that something was not right. He immediately led the group of twenty or so people back to the top of the cave system. Within ten minutes the bottom levels of the cave were filled by a flash flood.
Had the tour been led by one of the less experienced guides that day, this story would have had a very different ending and, no doubt, a tremendous amount of news footage in that part of the world. But this man had been leading these cave tours for 15 years. He knew them intimately. There wasn’t any one thing that tipped him off, but years spent in that environment told him something was ‘off’ – a million little hits added up to ‘this is not right.’
He didn’t second guess this information and his calm, quick actions saved a lot of people from certain death.
A couple of things struck me about this story:
1. This sort of thing happens every day. It occurs in much less graphic ways and we don’t often get the immediate feedback that our intuitive hits were good, but we are surrounded by this sort of information every day. A million invisible messages in the world around us, alerting us — or trying to — of danger or opportunity. Too often, we either ignore them or miss them altogether because we have forgotten how to listen.
2. Had there been a catastrophe, it would have been all over the news. And, in the midst of the catastrophe, had this man managed to save one of the people in his care, he would have been lauded as a hero and awarded some sort of Medal of Honour.
But it didn’t make the news. There was no medal, even though his actions saved many lives. The fact that he followed his intuition to avert disaster isn’t newsworthy.
Unless, of course, you were one of the people whose life was saved that day.