of RED RIVER VALLEY
|Jan 2008 Character Quality -- Availibility
|the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
A tri-cornered hat appeared just below a long stone hedge. In his calloused hands a Lexington
colonist held his musket - cleaned, shined, and loaded. He shifted his position as the sound of a
drum pierced the air from over the hill. A wave of a scarlet red coat flashed through the trees.
He tensed. “This is it,” he thought to himself. “This is where our training comes into play!” As the
drums advanced, his mind recalled the previous year since the Continental Congress had
issued a letter to the colonies. It stated: “each of the minutemen should be equipped,
trained…and disciplined three times a week to be ready at a moment’s notice.” Who were these
minutemen? They were common farmers, shopkeepers, and blacksmiths who made their
schedules and priorities secondary to the needs of the country they served. This is the definition
Availability requires preparation. A minuteman, minus a musket, would not be much of a match
at a moment’s notice! Their availability did not begin with the emergency. They learned the
skills and procedures necessary to be an organized defense before they needed to march. In
the twentieth century, the scenario is quite different, yet the concept remains the same. On the
job, you can prepare yourself by taking additional classes, on-the-job training, or simply aquaint
yourself with other duties. Should the need arise, you would be available and capable to fill in for
someone else. At home, children can prepare by setting out clothes and packing their school
bags for the next day.
To ‘make my priorities secondary,’ we must also exercise flexibility. Of all the minutemen, Paul
Revere is most famous for his midnight ride. Note the time he rode: midnight. The people he
aroused from sleep were farmers and businessmen who had put in a full day’s work the day
before. But as his ringing cry swept the countryside, the minutemen leapt to their feet, gathered
their equipment, and assembled in the town square. For us to be fully available to our family or
our boss, we must adjust our priorities and make their wishes our wishes. At times, all we may
see is that our personal timetable has been interrupted. However, availability adjusts our
attention to the task at hand and flexibly, cheerfully responds.
Availability also requires diligence to be active and effective. A flowing river makes energy
available to a water mill, but a standing pool offers nothing. We cannot sit around waiting to be
needed; rather, we should look for ways to help. Our mindset should be to benefit others; taking
the focus off of ourselves and putting it on other’s needs. Lending a hand to others is personally
rewarding and it encourages those we serve.
At the same time, we need to balance availability with cautiousness. Sometimes we tend to
overly-commit ourselves by volunteering for activities while we neglect our own responsibilities.
This will only offer us fatigue, a ruined schedule, and disruption of our real priorities.
Because the Lexington minutemen were available, they were prepared with their training, they
were diligent to fight at any hour, and they were flexible to change their battle plans when they
saw they were outnumbered. After the battle of Lexington, a British officer reported, “Between
nine and ten miles, their numbers increased…while ours were reduced by deaths, wounds, and
fatigue. We were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to
conceive...” The minutemen were available to meet the need of the moment – successfully.
America will be forever grateful that they did.
The Armed Forces of America prove day to day the rewards of availability. For all police, fire,
and emergency personnel, we offer our sincere thanks for the way they make themselves
available to us every day, every year. We honor them for their dedication and loyalty, and their
adherence to this character quality, making their schedules and priorities secondary to the
needs of those they are serving.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! material. For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact: Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK 73102, (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at www.character-paris.org.