On the way home last night we drove past a group of people on the side of the road. It almost wasn’t worth a second glance, except that some were standing and others were kneeling on the footpath, with one vehicle parked the wrong way to the curb. A second glance revealed someone lying on the ground in the middle of the group. We stopped and I ran over with a son to see if there was anything we could do to help. Half of my kids are active St John Cadets, and I took the most senior one in the vehicle with me.
It was a young woman lying on the ground. She had been found face down on the footpath having a seizure. By the time we got there, there were about ten people in all. The group had done everything right – they were on the phone to the ambulance service, they had put her in the recovery position, a couple of them were talking to her, and they had managed to learn her name. When we arrived one member of the group asked if we had a blanket in our vehicle – which we did – and a nice warm one at that. I ran back to get it and we covered the young woman. She was dressed lightly for running in the evening, and with lying on the footpath she was cold and getting colder. For another ten minutes two members kept talking to her, one kept talking to the ambulance service (“they’re coming”), and others went over the facts we knew. Once the ambulance arrived, the details of the situation were repeated to the ambulance officers, the young woman was handed over to their care, and the group disbanded.
Complete strangers mobilised to help someone in distress. No one gave a team pre-talk. No one gave out roles. No one wrote a team compact. The need was obvious, and as the seconds ticked by, each person used whatever skills and insights they had to help the young woman and ensure everyone was working together to help her. Needs that become obvious to one person were verbalised to see if another team member had a way of solving the problem. A scan of the road revealed a couple of vehicles in the way where the ambulance was likely to stop, and these were moved before they caused a problem.
Twenty minutes saw the formation and disbanding of a team, without any direction, discussion, planning, or strategising. Humanity and concern for the individual drew everyone together. A clear vision, a clear need, a sense of ones own abilities and a willingness to serve the group towards the realisation of the vision were all that was needed in such a situation. Team formation doesn’t aways work so smoothly, but everything clicked last night.