1st – There was a fire in our neighborhood.
2nd – I came home from the fire around 8:00 pm to find PG&E digging a hole in the yard across the street.
Help helps, even if it’s small, simple, easy … do help.
The Fire: As I was watching the scene, a woman approached and, as she got closer, I could see a cut on her forehead that was still bleeding. She appeared a bit dazed and seemingly unaware of this. These events are always chaotic. I counted around twelve fire trucks and rescue vehicles. It was just a brush fire, but it backed up against a row of apartment buildings. I was happy to see the extent of the response. However, in all the commotion, people were focused on the fire and fire men and this lone woman was going unnoticed.
So I walked up to her and asked her if she was okay. Turns out she wasn’t. She had hit her head on the roof of her car trunk as she was putting something in it. This was, she told me; after she had evacuated her apartment with her cat that was so ill she had considered putting it to sleep just that morning; after she had also moved two cars out the way from the fire. It wasn’t a big gash, but it was there and so was bruising, nonetheless. This fire was stress and trauma on top of an already stressful and traumatic day.
I put my hand gently on her shoulder, let her know her cut was still bleeding and suggested we walk over to find an EMT and get a band aid. We did.
PG&E: PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) digging a hole?! I went over to see what was up. Turns out my neighbor called because she smelled gas. And yes, there was a small leak. Thank you, dear neighbor, for not thinking it’s ‘not-my-job’ to take action! At mid-night, after watching the USA women win gold in gymnastics and swimming, Kudos!, I checked the progress. They were still at it. I wondered, was the ‘small leak’ really a big one? No, they assured me, it was just hard to find in order to repair.
Non-Californians may or may not recall the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. I live in the SF Bay Area. We remember it well. PG&E, with a two-year anniversary of the event coming up and new CEO in position, has been running TV ads of good will lately. In the ad, the new CEO states PG&E “lost its way,” and “But I came here because the people clearly haven’t.” Is the CEO right? And if the people aren’t lost, then who is the ‘PG&E’ that is?
I was there in the aftermath of the explosion in the joint PG&E / Red Cross Service Center. There were two rows of tables in that room, one side was PG&E and one side was the Red Cross, with an invisible, but palpable, line running between. I talked with the PG&E people there. Surprise (she said with sarcasm), they are people just like you and me. Many were volunteers themselves, just wanting a way to help. Some had tears in there eyes, many felt guilty and most felt as helpless as anyone of us does when bad events greater than ourselves and our everyday lives occur.
Will a new CEO really help? Maybe. Corporate cultures do create corporate mishaps. Leaders can lead and shape the cultures. Sometimes the culture is too entrenched for any leader to overcome. If so, can these cultures be changed? Yes, but only by the conscious effort of the people in the culture. A culture of neglect, fear or indifference shoves flaws under the rug, keeps people from speaking up and puts blinders of denial on. This is not just PG&E’s culture. It has been America’s corporate culture for quite some time. Don’t make waves. Don’t speak up if you see an error or something wrong. Just get along and go along. PG&E just happens to be in a business where the effect of this cause is a visible, overt and cumulative threat to human life. In other companies, this threat is less visible, less blatant, but still cumulatively harmful to our lives, nonetheless.
Can the new CEO turn the culture around alone? I don’t think so. The only people who can are the people, the people of the company, the people who are really just like you and me. They have to make the conscious choice. And if the company doesn’t reward it, than we can. Sure, there are people who don’t want to try. But I saw the faces of the real PG&E people in San Bruno. I dared to cross that invisible line in the middle room, even though few did. I talked with them, felt the hurt, guilt and compassion. I tried to comfort them too.
So I crossed that don’t-get-involved line twice last night. Once to help a person in a small way in a small disaster. And once to say hello to PG&E people working on a small leak. Each time as I left, thanked those working for the work they were doing on our behalf.
What if we all crossed that imaginary line? What if we all thanked the people who give us help or just a small service, every time, every place? Could we help them turn their cultures around? Help them to know they are valued and thus, could start to value themselves and those around them? Yes.
Golden Eggs: What if your value was valued?
Waterwheels: What if you could gather the energy needed from the
people around you, and vice versa?