A FRIEND OF MINE had been a firefighter for many years. Since she became a fire officer, however, it had been a long time since she'd donned a fire coat and rushed to a fire in the middle of the night. Most of her days were spent in budget meetings, communicating through e-mail, handling personnel issues, and other management tasks.

But one night at 2:30 a.m., my friend was awakened by a phone call that there was a house fire in her district. While there was evidence that no one was at the home, it was nevertheless her responsibility to go to the alarm. In a series of quick moves she woke up, dressed, and drove to the emergency. She told me later that her response was all very automatic, free of resistance, questioning, or delays. While she's usually a person who presses the snooze bar on her alarm at least three times, this automatic response was quick and alert. It was an experienced response, the result of years of training.

What is your response in times of crisis? Aren't there sometimes "alarms" that go off in our everyday experience, too—like an illness or injury that seems to press for attention, or a relationship that never seems to be at peace? How can we "put on our mental fire coats" and respond with calm, right activity?

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July 5, 2010

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