This blog entry is in English. Yet English is not my native language (Italian is), so have some indulgence with typos or grammatical mistakes. Also, I have been told that I write complex things - whether this is good or bad I don't know: but so, if you are unfamiliar with articulated prose you may see grammatical errors not only where there could be some, but also where just a prose you're not acquainted with is. Native speakers with an A+ grade in english said my english, obviously not perfect, imports no major issues. Lend a deaf ear to the errors, vocally disagree with my thesis whenever you want, but enjoy the style all the while.
During the Renaissance the alchemists were attempting to «transmute vile lead into gold».
Whether this was a proto-scientific utopia only worth of being bemocked at or if, rather, speaking of such a conversion would have a meaning whatsoever and would be feasible at least in part, constitutes the daily occupation and the daily bread of whoever has elected to operate within the emergency care and relief departments.
Relief meant as association like the Anglo-Saxon Saint John's Ambulances
means it: a relief that spans on a 360 degrees gamut, in order to look ecumenically after needs, disgraces, miseries, incidents and emergencies alike, both individually and collectively met.
If such lead, which is as much laden as it is very concrete, may be genuinely converted into gold, constitutes a precipitation that is not accrued within the phials of a necromancer, but that is cultivated within living vials that walk and that breath, and that every day can be witnessed and seen on the streets of our towns and cities, very far from being utopian or mythical but on the contrary visible and very true and very real, and operating either in the capacity of relief or in that of FPOS
: First Person On Scene
: for if the worst of the worst happens, it will be exactly us who will learn it first, who will see it first, and who will contrast it first.
Therefore it is not only an exclusively sacerdotal gesture that of imparting the sign of the cross and uttering the ancient Latin dictum: «ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis
» - that is, I remit your sins. Because metaphorically whenever a first responder brings a droplet of good there where disgrace blood and evil only were spreading uncontested and undisturbed, s/he has at least dissolved -if not absolved- a particle of "sin".
For this is what we do; this, and nothing else but this, is what our business is all about; this is our job, whether we are self-aware of it or whether we are not.
We may be bewildered at such statement as above; but we oughtn't to see any disproportion in it, at least insofar as we recollect the Gospel accordingly to Mark:«Jesus said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"»
Of course we can't precisely say (though we would have liked it very much): get up and go home. At most, we can say: we stretcher you and take you home.
Yet, it is a transformation of evil into good already: it is already "dispelling the evil spirits". It is well within the range of our faculties, of the faculties of the sons of Man.
And if perhaps we can't really remit or absolve the sins of the others, yet we can assuredly remit our own. The miracle of Lazarus isn't only a thaumaturgy enforced upon a patient that, no matter how hard we may apply ourselves, we can't really perform.
But it is definitely a thaumaturgy we can cast upon ourselves when, after a day of toils, of disillusionments, of embitterments, we remember that our association is awaiting us; that evil is permanently out there constantly awaiting new easy game, that it knows no vacations, that it is not worried about the weather: that grief and necessity are always on the prowl, both in their most catastrophic versions which we meet with dedication and exertion as in their more pedantic versions before which at times we pretend to feign annoyance.
It is then that the miracle of Lazarus
occurs anew: whenever a first responder, whether volunteer or hired is immaterial, says to him/herself: it does not matter how much tired I may be, it does not matter whether I feel like or not, but: "get up Lazarus, and walk", for my association may need your force too today.
A thought, this one, that I am persuaded may be of special help for those who do the most peculiar of services, namely the wake-up calls: the night watch.
Being brought down of those beds is not an inconvenient: it is a honor.
And when three or four bothers brought down from their beds, converge from different entries in order to gather in the surreal silence and half-light of the hall to know their imminent destination, in that room subtly vibrates, humble and grandiose at once, something of the vigil in the orchard of Gethsemani
; the mere act of rallying there would be a story worth telling our nephews already.
And so to stay on the theme of the call again, I would like to add a few considerations. For instance, it rarely happens: yet a first responder, when s/he is tempted to do so, ought never to respond to a call before the ring of the official summon-call has been clearly heard because, perhaps, s/he has overheard the phone conversation that anteceded it.
In my humble opinion, unless you are certain of being the only one available for the service, it would be preferable not to yield to this impulse; even if we know or believe we wield formal or exclusive titles or reservations for duty on those hours.
This because one should never take as granted that s/he will be dispatched in service: assuming this as a given would be, somewhat, like attempting to monopolize something whose deepest essence is exactly that of being a service, and therefore it would be tantamount to introducing into the speech of Good the speech of Power; it would mean introducing into a service that preserves its charitable aspect, something that oughtn't to reside there at all: the reasons of the accrued right, of the professional priority, or of the major competence.
The services assigned to us, must be carried out: the whole of them. If you don't want to carry out a few, you'd rather stay home and do none. You carry them out without discussion. And you carry them out when they are appointed to you, and not before.
Of course, it is in the nature of the good first responder that of wishing s/he could be always called, always busy with bustling service: in a first responder, zeal is a virtue undoubtedly.
Yet patience too is.
In your service you shall be humble and generous, not petulant and captious.
When we are called upon the duty we didn't like, or we are not called upon the duty we did liked, or to which we thought we had the best credentials, we shall keep our disappointment and regret sealed in our bosoms: thus we shall prove with the facts of our humility rather than with the boasts of our remonstrations, that we were worthy of seeing that service appointed to us rather than claiming our formal entitlement to it.
And when you deem or you feel or think that you are better than the others, think this too: that a person who has true
grandness, does not demonstrate his or her greatness by depriving the others of their dignity, belittling or scolding them so to stack out bigger on the background of their vilifications: but demonstrates true authentic greatness by stepping down the pedestal and nonchalantly placing him/herself to their level and there teaching
them. For it is by teaching and letting the others grow at your level or even beyond it that you prove, by never fearing their growth, that you are indeed
"the greatest of all" - as Cassius Clay *
may have phrased it.
It is in this sense that, also when we did nothing during our hours of availability, and we were never called on duty, we must say to ourselves: I have offered to the Lord (however you may want to think of it and signify it, were it even "To The God Unknown" of St. Paul) the sacrifice of my time. We must not be like the pharisee, that want to station in the first rows of the churches at all times, speaking up: oh Lord I thank Thee for having made me so clever; instead we must learn to station in the utmost row, and thank the Lord for having given to us the opportunity, today, of sacrificing something of our petty pride: for without it, maybe tomorrow I serve better my patient, by thinking more about him or her rather than about my little selfish self and my poor and conceited performance.
Nor you ought to seek only the services you like best or that scare you less.
The blood of the others can't be a menu from which you select delicacies of your predilection and say: this I don't like it so do not bring it to me, rather this other one I like it so please double portion of it, then this half a portion, and since this other one I never tasted it, bring me a dash of it so I can feel if it is palatable to me and my alleged competence.
The services you are called upon must all be accepted and carried out, and as far as those that we do not like are concerned, it may be a good idea to go and seek for them deliberately; including wiping asses, for if changing a diaper causes troubles to you, it means you're not ready for anything yet.
The reward of a good action doesn't rest with doing what we like or what we deem best fit for us. The reward of the good action, is the good action. You are repleted by that.
And when an ill child finally faintly smiles at us in an ambulance, when a patient realizes we do pay heed even in the smallest things that maybe s/he thought serious and we didn't deem so serious and nonetheless s/he perceives we are truly listening, when an ill person seizes our hand, when a paralytic looks at us in a more intent manner and is about to say thank you and yet s/he can't, when a person on a stretcher is about to burst into tears seeing us sweated and panting after seven stores of a building to carry him or her home, when a patient who has been vastly incapacitated by a stroke fondles suddenly our face, when either the smallest of our patients awaits us with trepidation, that is our real wage; that is our salary; that is what we work for; that is our reward, if we truly are in want of one, and that is our pay, our supper.
There are no heroes here; and when our patient dies, no body has been very clever or very good, but everyone could do more - even if we know or deem we could not. You won't declare yourself clever on the tombstones of the others.
Or, vice versa: it does not matter whether the patient was not seriously ill at all, whether s/he had just a cold, or whether s/he was a clochard
, or a youngster on drugs throwing his/her life away: only dandies die on bed of roses, Our Lord hadn't "even a stone to rest his head upon", and intervening on the futile too, with competence and attention, belongs to our commitment to the service neither more nor less than all the rest. It is life and death that decide whom, what and how: we decide nothing, we choose nothing, and we judge nobody: but we serve all.
And if too anxious a mother summons you because her son has a leaking nose, thus diverting elsewhere precious resources, you will explain it to her it with garb and tact, and then you will lean down, and you will wipe her son's snot: with the same meticulous dedication of always; for no one among us is so important and indispensable to have to spare his or her talents attending to the challenges of the grandiose; who doesn't know how to attend well to the small s/he meets, all the less will be able to meet the grand s/he yearns for.
And you shall not learn by the bad examples you may be presented with, acting like a sycophant who is not in service but who is begging for social acceptance in a gang of burn-outs. If for someone at your workplace your job is just a job whatever, for you it will still be a mission; if for someone at your work your patient is just an inconvenient, for you it will still be a passion; if for someone at your work intervening is just bureaucracy, for you it will still be an adventure; and if for someone at your workplace your role isn't but about a wage, for you it will still be a privilege.
It is still in this context, that it may be worth observing that the service is not carried out in the company of those whom you prefer: you do your service with those that you find there, and not with those that you like.
Handsome or ugly. Nice or arrogant. Smart or dumb. You are leaving in service with them, your priority being the patient, only the patient, nothing else but the patient, and full stop. Who is with you, is with you.
Yet, the most engrossing aspect of your service is still, I believe, this: maybe what we do is little, maybe we are just putting drops in a boundless ocean, tiny insignificant inane drops that will soon be overpowered and diluted in the immensity of new sorrows that are forthcoming, of new dramas that are already staging a new siege, of new incidents that are already ravaging at the horizon.
And yet (and this is a very remarkable yet) that's a drop we contributed indeed: that drop, is a real
Our participation has been real, it has been factual. It hasn't been just theorems, it hasn't been just words, it hasn't been just speeches and sermons, it hasn't been just chats at a bar, it hasn't been just blog entries, it hasn't been just philosophical disquisition: but our words have been followed by facts and Acts. Real facts and real Acts, really happened.
wrote: "I have always wished that they couldn't be just mere words. Still today, every day, I do not want them to be only words"; in our associations they are facts. Daily.
And if evil will go on pushing forward, all the better: for it will help us to preserve meticulosity and frugality in our work: by running faster than our ambulances and our breaks, it will prevent us from pausing to populate them with fatuous self-complacency, with the biblical vanity of vanities. We fight, and then we go back home unknown and in silence, too tired for glory or to savour any bravery; also because, anyway, tomorrow, like Sisyphus *
, we shall be back to mend again this fabric lacerated with new wounds: and the blue lights shall be back flickering against the walls of the alleys, the cars of the men and women who change diapers will start again travelling the known roads, and we shall be back, to dash into the night, to defy and challenge "the arrow that flies at noon and the plague that stalks at midnight" (Psalms), and wherever there will be any need of help, we shall be there - as the first ones, in order to withstand the ravishing impact of the first charge of the worst.
One last consideration I would like to add, since many of these association have a patent religious vocation - and certainly not by error.
This religious side is no complication, and it doesn't constitute an inconvenience or an ancillary and subsidiary factor of the emergency care. It is not the make up of extrications and evisceration.
The meaning of our service is that of being and becoming mission and conversion, and not just profession.
We may not grasp this, but the fact we can't see this implication does not mean that the implication is not there: it only means we are serving with our eyes wide shut. Doing which, we aren't attaining at all any sort of realistic pragmatism so to renounce with virility the seductions of idealism; but, on the contrary, we are inflicting upon ourselves a net loss without any reason whatsoever.
As Marguerite Yourcenar *
suggested: "let's enter death with our eyes open" - for a first responder is exactly the person who must keep his/her eyes well open while all the others are attempting to recoil; therefore keeping our eyes open before religiosity too is warranted during service.
You cannot deal with the disgraces of the others like bureaucrats of the emergency care with reluctance, neither we can be first on scene as accidental tourists, or like refugees: like responders who responded by mistake.
If it must be so, then it would be better to change job, or stay home if we are (and this would be even worst) volunteering.
Losing our sense of mission, means losing the quintessence of the whole thing and, with it, the whole kernel of our professionalism.
You do not succor human beings with the same bored negligence you may fill a form with at the postal office: if we would be doing this, we would attain counter-professionalism in the first degree. And you can't perform protocols on sentient beings who are suffering, enacting them with the same automatism you engage your everyday ride home: for in emergency relief that road is different and unique every day, and what made it such is exactly our patient and his/her sufferings.
Therefore reciting a prayer at the end of every service, and to consider a disgrace skipping it, is not the act of gullible men and women, naive or subjugated to an unique and fundamentalist creed like bigots who believe in phantoms.
Rather, reciting a prayer at the end of every service is the attempt of real men and women, perfectly self aware and not naive in the least, who cope daily with great and small dramas, to recall themselves with the fundamental and objective and unflinching fact that in this circuit where repetitive actions are performed, where disgraces swoop, where living beings survive and get maimed or die, and yell and choke and suffer, writhe and bleed and wriggle, swoon agonize and decease, despair rejoice and mourn, insult hit caress and thank, cry hope and revise, there is never anything bureaucratic that goes around; praying serves us to remember that we are rather in the presence of something terrible and terrific whose obvious, patent and most evident sacral nature and holiness can escape our attention only at our own detriment and for my fault, my fault, my greatest fault. Mine, and of nothing and no one else.
It is like Notre Dame De Paris *
, with his grotesque gargoyles and magnificent architectures: monstrous and beautiful, superb and horrible at once.
In some association the prescribed prayer for the "brothers and sisters" who passed, and that we will soon join, has precisely the purpose of reminding us about another grandiosity; that right here, right on these asphalts, right on these milestones, right along these streets, right on these pavements and parvis and porches, generations of responders took over generations of responders; and they did, it literally and not emphatically, for the centuries of the centuries amen.
In this generational take-over rests the deepest meaning of the permanence of our service. As long as there is a sorrow or one suffering left, as long as death has not lost its sting, our hosts will be here to struggle, diligent and in silence, without drums and fanfare, at most wailing a few sirens; and when our leading line of today shall fall, the second one of tomorrow will simply close up its ranks, shall step forward, and shall overtake us; and outrageous fortune may fling arrows and stones at us as it pleases it, now: for here we shall stay, in permanent service.
First to land on scene, we shall leave no one behind. And we shall go away only when the last of sorrows has left too. And if Apocalypse is for today at noon, we shall be there. For this is what we do, this
is our job: precisely this. And we do this indeed, for real; and we do this every day; and we do this whether we are aware we are doing it or not.
First to arrive, last to give up.
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