National crisis, personal response

Every once in a while, the nation shares an experience.

Think death of Princess Diana, attack on the Twin Towers in New York or any national sporting event where there’s a smidgen of possibility. Such moments bring us together because we all have a story to tell.

This week’s shared experience was petrol. Not quite in the same league, but shared nonetheless. Almost all the conversations I’ve had in the last 48 hours have made reference to it. Tales of queues, where to get it, where you can’t and disbelief at the panic happening at all – pretty much everyone is talking about it.

There’s no tragedy here, just common ground. A shared understanding of something that’s affecting us all. It makes for camaraderie, goodwill and kindness on one hand (as some pass on vital intelligence of where to get petrol or show empathy for those who’ve had a bad experience ) and self-interest, discourtesy and aggression on the other (as people forget or disregard collective need and focus entirely on their own).

The big picture and our response to it – based on what we’ve heard, read or seen – is the result of many factors, but mostly they’re personal. It doesn’t matter what the issue is – celebrity death, national disaster, national shortage – in every case, we tend to first look inside ourselves to try to understand, to inform our reaction.

There are some who then turn outward, their instinct is to help or share with others. In my line of work these people are regularly recruited as ‘champions’ or ‘agents for change’. They are small in number. They’re the ones broadcasting the whereabouts of the petrol station that’s just had the delivery, or offering to give you lift if your tank’s running low. They’re the ones who help me shape and broadcast the big picture.

Where there’s a national shared experience, or business strategy that needs communicating – this small group of people is quiety helping.

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