A number of people on LinkedIn flagged a story about a Chinese man who has dedicated his weekends to saving people from committing suicide by jumping off the Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, which is the number one suicide venue in the world. In 13 years, Chen Si has talked 321 people back from the brink.
Chen’s sacrifice should remind us that we have volunteer heroes all around us. Like Chen, they change people’s lives and ask for nothing in return. We at least should make a point of celebrating these heroic people when we learn of their feats.
Given the divisions in the nation and raw feelings after a rough-and-tumble presidential campaign, some inspiration would do all of us some good.
Recognizing good works by staff members can be a moral booster. Recognizing good works by customers or stakeholders can deepen rapport.
The recognition doesn’t have to be showy, just genuine. Some miracle-working volunteers prefer anonymity, which should be respected. But some stories are just too rich to keep covered up. TV stations, in particular, are on the lookout for inspirational or human interest stories because they have strong appeal to viewers and somewhat balance out the often gloomy news of the day.
One of the best forms of recognition is to lend meaningful and useful support to the volunteer’s cause. Maybe more hands are needed on deck. Perhaps there is a need for special equipment. Perhaps just exposure is enough to shine a light on a problem that has been too long in the shadows.
There is no better time to put out feelers on your staff or in your community asking about quiet volunteers whose works speak volumes. When you discover these human gems, don’t try to surprise them with praise. Instead do them the honor of asking about their work and finding out what, if anything, they need to support their work.
Chen rents a 2-bedroom flat near the Yangtze River Bridge where people he saves can spend a night or two. Two-thirds of the rent is paid by donors who appreciate Chen’s commitment. He pays the rest out of his meager salary.
Publicity about his quest to prevent suicides hopefully has increased donations and perhaps inspired others to stand watch on weekdays when Chen is working. It wouldn’t hurt to share how Chen convinces people to climb down from the railing of the bridge and go on with their lives.
We should exhibit the same respect and curiosity for men, women and children in our orbit of life who see it as their personal mission to serve others, rescue animals or save the planet. What they do is a powerful message we need to hear.