Heroic rescue highlights value of teamwork

Published 3:00 am Friday, July 14, 2017

“Impressive teamwork.”

That’s how Karen Herring described the efforts of dozens of bystanders who joined together to form a human chain and helped save a drowning family this past weekend at Panama City Beach.

The rescue happened less than two hours away and it drew national attention, because we all crave stories that celebrate the best of the human spirit.

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But Herring, who shared her observation about the effort during Troy Regional Medical Center’s Female Factor meeting on Wednesday, saw something else that deserves celebration: spontaneous teamwork.

The efforts of those more than 70 strangers who clasped hands and waded out into the current proved that the sum our efforts is greater than its parts. When we put aside our worries about “not being able to do it all” and realize that we can do “something,” some small part to contribute to a bigger effort, then we as humans can make remarkable things happen – like saving a drowning mother and her sons.

Even the youngest athletes learn the value and importance of teamwork. The Dixie youth and Dixie softball teams playing in district and state tournaments will be quick to attest to the importance of playing together as a team – backing up a pitcher, each executing his or her role on the field to help win the game.

And in the corporate world, employees learn the value of teamwork through training, education, goal setting, and formal team-building activities and events.

But for most of us, outside of specific circumstances, we don’t often think about “teamwork” and how it can affect our lives and our communities.

We should, though.

Because thinking about ourselves as a member of the “team” – whether that team is a family or a neighborhood, a social group or a church congregation, a city council district or a democratic nation – helps us to focus on the importance of doing what we can to help advance the greater good.

What can you do, today, to help a neighbor? To make your community a stronger, more dynamic and more welcoming place to live?

How does your choice of words and tone change when you engage in the political discourse on social media from the perspective of one member of larger team? Would you choose differently? Would we find common ground and civility, rather derision and division?

“Impressive teamwork” in any arena doesn’t require singular success or extraordinary efforts. It simply requires the ability to both talk and listen, to be willing to do your part and to respect others, to find a way to work together rather than divide and conquer.

The bystanders who joined hands on that Panama City Beach weren’t thinking about political leanings or social stature. They weren’t seeking social media recognition. They were simply willing to do their part, to work together, to make a difference.

That’s a goal to which we should aspire, each and every day.