[notice]A monthly column by Marcel van der Watt, lecturer in the Department of Police Practice at UNISA, former police detective, and current member of the Gauteng Rapid Response Task Team for Human Trafficking.[/notice]
Since early childhood I always found great fascination in the ‘human’ ability to endure and persevere despite overwhelming odds. I remember spending hours engaging with movies portraying the unlikely hero standing up for justice whilst risking his own life, or stories of German concentration camps where Jews maintain their dignity and humanity despite suffering the most horrific harm. I admired the effect of such courageous and noble behaviour on others who benefited, or at least observed the protagonist facing his (and their) giants.
I also learned that courage was contagious. For my seventh birthday party my dad arranged for me and some friends to see Rocky IV. I was consumed by Rocky’s discipline and determination in preparing for a boxing fight against the Russian champion, Ivan Drago. Despite overwhelming odds and the inherent risk of a small statured Rocky fighting the Russian giant, Rocky triumphed. I remember leaving the cinema feeling inspired and motivated to be a seven year old Rocky. I convinced my dad to purchase an axe as it was a fundamental tool in Rocky’s training regime. Within six months I managed to ‘clean’ at least three plots adjacent to our home
The composed caller
During 2000 a well known shopping centre in Port Elizabeth was struck by a group of armed robbers. The incident caused absolute pandemonium. The robbers managed to get away with a large sum of money. Numerous shots were fired and people were injured. A car was highjacked and used as a getaway vehicle by the robbers. Whilst the incident was playing out, numerous calls were logged with the 10111 centre in Port Elizabeth in order to alert the police to the incident. The recordings of these calls from the public were later used in training new telephone operators for duties in the 10111 centre.
The calls from the shopping centre robbery were typically characterised by screaming callers who were fearful, emotional and in an utmost state of panic. 10111 telephone operators could clearly hear the background noise, gunshots and panic whilst engaging with callers on the telephone in order to obtain crucial information as the event transpired. Most calls came from cellular or business phones from inside the retail outlets and the 10111 operators struggled to get concrete information due to the emotional state of the callers.
One of the callers was an elderly woman. She was different…very different. When the call was answered, the 10111 operator immediately knew it was another shopping centre complaint due to the chaotic background noise. However, when the woman began to speak, the 10111 operator was stunned. She was absolutely composed and greeted the 10111 operator – even asking her how she was doing. She informed her that she had walked out of a shop in the midst of the chaos to log the call from a public telephone which was close proximity to where the gunshots were fired. Her description of events was meticulous and due to her composed emotional state, the 10111 operator was able to record important information. The police were commended for their heroic response to the situation. Two robbers were fatally wounded and a large sum of the money was retrieved.
One of the most daunting dimensions of most trials and tribulations is the element of unpredictability. We seldom wake up in the morning with a scheduled appointment with chaos, hurt, pain, loss or uncertainty. Rather we every so often crash land in a remote jungle where we have to ‘fight for survival’. Jesus alerts us to the fact that we will face many troubles in this lifetime but calls us to take heart as the battle has already been won by Him (John 16:33). Giving credence to Jesus’ call, Paul commissions us to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and to be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).
Responding to the call by Jesus and Paul holds immense power for believers with life changing potential for non-believers who observe the Christian’s response to trials and tribulations. Let us therefore be prepared for battle and be reminded by the composed caller’s contribution to defusing a hostile situation. Finally, be reminded that winter will come and draw inspiration from the words of Albert Camus:
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.