What choice will you make?

July 24, 2020

The global pandemic we’ve all been living through for the past few months has presented and created multiple challenges that we never predicted. Who knew as we were ringing in 2020 that we would have to cancel in-person events, flights and vacations? As we’ve seen over and over again, we can adapt and thrive in even the most challenges circumstances. 3M HIS pivoted this year and decided to go virtual for our annual 3M Client Experience Summit (CES). While we missed seeing all of our clients in person, it has provided a unique opportunity to engage with each other in new and interesting ways.

One of those opportunities was to hear from our keynote speaker Rabia Siddique, an international speaker, humanitarian, best-selling author and hostage survivor. Through her harrowing story of survival, Rabia reminds us that we all have a choice to make. As human beings we are strong, resilient and adaptable. If we choose to be. Each of our unique stories has value, power and lessons that we can take into our leadership, work and service.

When Rabia was deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the British Army, she had no idea how much her life would change and her future impacted by her experience there. On September 19, 2005, she found herself in a situation that would be pivotal not only to the Iraq campaign, but would change her life forever. Two British special forces soldiers had been taken hostage. When the British Army tried to open negotiation channels, an Iraqi judge who was in charge of the situation at the time, said that he would only speak with Rabia. She was a lawyer in the British Army who had no experience as a hostage negotiator, but she had been working with local Iraqis as a human rights advocate. She had built trust with the locals.

At that moment, Rabia reflected on something her father said growing up, “There will be a time in your life where you will be called upon to step outside your comfort zone for the greater good. The choice that you make in that moment will define your character.” So, as tensions were quickly escalating, Rabia entered the compound where the two British soldiers were being held. At some point during the negotiations, the situation outside the compound exploded into violence. A crowd of locals had grown from 300 to more than 3,000 and eventually they breached the compound walls. Negotiations stalled, the Iraqi judge walked away and Rabia, along with five male British soldiers, was taken hostage.

For the next eight and a half hours, Rabia was tortured, degraded and humiliated in front of her male colleagues. When they were finally released, the men received a hero’s welcome and trauma counseling. Rabia received a kiss on the cheek from her commander and a day off duty. This led to a two-year battle for justice and truth that took an extreme toll on Rabia’s health and career.

Just six months after winning her legal battle with the British military and the U.K. government, the first female solider received the Cross of Bravery from the Queen of England. Massive cultural and policy changes were implemented across the British military as a result of Rabia’s case. Rabia said, “The biggest lesson I share with you in this unprecedented time is that we all have the power to create ripples of change if we choose to do so. We have to make the choice. No one will make that choice for us.”

As we continue to navigate these uncertain and trying times, remember that you have a choice. You can choose to confront our new realities, accept and embrace them. You can choose to see the opportunities and the gifts in these situations.

If you missed 3M CES and Rabia’s keynote this year, we hope you’ll be able to join us (in-person) next year. In the meantime, our team will continue to work hard to provide relevant education and resources throughout the year. Check out some of our upcoming and on-demand webinars.

I’ll leave you with this: we are all fighting a battle. We are all dealing with a difficult situation or decision. Be kind. Help your neighbor. And if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are many resources available immediately.

Kelli Christman is senior marketing communications and strategic communications specialist at 3M Health Information Systems.