Home > Uncategorized > Nothing New?

Nothing New?

August 24th, 2012

“There’s really nothing new in family assistance; it’s just variations on the same stuff.” That’s what a friend recently told me. On one level, perhaps that’s true. But on another level, I couldn’t disagree more.

Let me share an example – an illustration from an accident that occurred in the 1990s.

A large passenger aircraft crashed on landing in the middle of the night in bone-drenching rain. The fuselage broke apart; portions were engulfed in fire. There were some fatalities, but most passengers escaped and survived. Naturally, many of their belongings were destroyed. One little girl lost her favorite stuffed toy. She was broken-hearted.  At a time when she needed to feel safe and reassured, that special object she used for comfort was impossible to recover.

The airline’s special assistance team learned about the little girl’s loss. The toy itself could not be repaired. But they jumped into action and found out more about it. They learned where it was purchased. They contacted the seller, who didn’t have any others like it, but could tell them where it was made. They called the manufacturer. They found an identical toy. And they got it as quickly as they could and delivered it to the little girl. Whether she believed it was her original toy or a replacement didn’t matter; she was delighted, and she was comforted.

Could something like that be included in a manual or a checklist: “Determine whether a child’s toy is damaged, and if so, conduct an extensive search to find a replacement”? Of course not! The checklists would be constantly growing, always incomplete, and totally useless. The ”variations” my friend talked about can’t be captured in checklists. But they are the very essence of an effective and compassionate response.

So is there anything new in family assistance? You might as well say there is nothing new in home-building; it’s just variations on the same stuff. On one level it’s true: every home will have a foundation, walls, roof, doors, windows. But the variations will distinguish each house. In the same way, variations in family assistance distinguish each response. The variations are where the opportunities are – the opportunities to make the difference to every individual we assist.

Every accident has an infinite number of variables. Handling them well requires keen observation, careful listening, and caring responsiveness. It also requires clear organizational priorities and a genuine concern for passenger and family welfare. There is always something new in family assistance. And that is precisely what makes all the difference.

Comments are closed.