21 February 2010

What's in your wallet?

Years ago during a particularly tumultuous time in my life I decided that there were some things that I couldn’t do by myself. I was self employed at the time and business was good, but trying to run the business and working it at the same time was just wearing me down. Add on top of that the strains of raising a family while being away from home three or four nights a week and you see where this can lead to real quick.

With all the stress and strains of life weighing me down and my burdens many, I did what every red blooded American and convicted felon does…I sought God. Don’t groan yet, this is not a Sunday school lesson.

I didn’t necessarily have a churchy upbringing and it wasn’t a big part of my young adult life. However, I had had some exposure to the good Christian teachings as dictated by others that knew better how my life should be, so I wasn’t exactly clueless as to what was going on.

One Sunday morning I was sitting in church and for whatever reason, this one phase from the pulpit hit me and sank to the pits of my being… and stuck. Of course I didn’t know this at the time, but that seed had been planted and time would cultivate this seed to a tangible product.

“If you can, or will, find something that you are willing to do for free…that is your calling. But if you can find a way to get paid for what you are willing to do for free, you have found the keys to unlock for yourself a prosperous lifestyle.”

A prosperous lifestyle…hmmmm…sounds good. I could live with that.

Fast forward to present day reality if you will. I’ve realized what prosperity is not by now. Naturally when I first heard this I spent many hours and days thinking about what I could do that would lead me to the riches. Man, I needed to find something that I really loved doing and find a way to make me a lot of money doing it. That’s how I interpreted what I heard that morning. Now either I’m not doing something right in the riches department, or prosperity must be something else.

For those of you who find your sustainment in the delivery of emergency (or not so emergent) medical services you know what I mean when I say “You ain’t gonna get rich doing this”. I know it; you know it and it would appear that the establishment knows it as well. Yet we keep on doing this day in and day out. Some do it at two or three different places. Others do it as their chosen profession and still find time to do it for free. Still some just do it because they truly enjoy the experience for whatever reason and get nothing in return except for a small pile of personal satisfaction.

I have to say that there is nothing more satisfying that I can imagine myself doing at this point in my life. For all the flat tires in my system and red tape that I deal with along with the endless political posturing that we must endure, I truly love what I do.

There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing that you have intervened in someone’s life and truly made a difference somehow. Even all the rides that we provide across the U.S. on the biggest publically funded taxi service in the world are comical after the initial anger wears off.

I get paid every day in one way or another. Not by check of course, that comes too weakly (bi-weekly), but in greater things that are far more valuable.

Let’s not forget the stories told by the nursing home resident, needlessly on the way to the hospital for a little bump on the arm. I take some solace in knowing that I gave them a change of scenery for a few hours while being held a captive audience for their life story.

The difficult patients off their psych meds. They are convinced someone is riding on the tailboard following them, or the one who has cut themselves to shreds and wants to take me out with them. From them I will get patience and tolerance.

Even the drunk driver who kills another human being gets his/her due as well. They will allow me to realize that my job is to fix and sustain the human body; that’s why I’m not a police officer or a judge. He gives perspective.

The patient who waits until I get to their house before they decide to code. They give me the drive to stay on my game, to tirelessly train and study, they think that I can fix what’s wrong if they can just hold out until I get there. These guys give me confidence.

Who can forget the lady who is waiting at the curb with her suitcase as you pull up in an ALS rig that is the last available for the next thirty minutes or so? It’s a cold night and her power has been turned off because she has no money, she has nowhere to turn and seeks refuge from the cold night air in my bus. She’s also knows that when she gets to the hospital there will be a small portion of food available for her during a four to five hour work up that will be nothing short of a full physical. She pays out with compassion and understanding.

How about the guy that the cops have just fed a concrete and grass sandwich to because he beat his wife and kids and tried to resist an arrest. He makes me love my job too. It is because of this guy that I will never go to jail for loosing my temper and killing someone. If I can spend twenty minutes alone with him in a closed environment, knowing what he has just done, I can control my emotions and anger through anything. He gave me self control.

For the infant who met the enemy SID, the one whose body I will have to do unimaginable things to just so the parents will know that they tried…that I tried. This little one will give me a deeper appreciation for life and learn to protect the fragile memories with my undivided attention.

Finally there is the frail old man who is in the process of taking his last breaths. He has run his race and fought the good fight. He wears his memories in the wrinkles on his face and his body is so tired. There is nothing I can do now because he has already purchased his final ticket. It is gold and has a big stop sign embossed on it that tells me to let him go out like a champ. It tells me that he is in control of these final moments. We lock eyes and he breathes one final time; he is now just someone’s memory of happier times. He gives me respect and dignity.

Yes, there are times when I almost loose it with the way things play out on the job. I do not like the way things have to be done. There are too many injustices that we must overlook out of professionalism and decorum; but this is our job…this is what we do.

Until the dawning of a new day when society figures out how to deal with all its’ problems, we will continue to be the dumping ground. Because of this we will be the doctor, the nurse, mental health counselor, moderator, baby-sitter, guard, taxi driver, locksmith, doorman and the list goes on forever.

I will probably never get to buy a custom built yacht as a Paramedic, or even a used one for that matter. My cars won’t be fancy and my family won’t take lavish vacations to Europe. We’ll only have one house to live in and it will not be on the lake front. I’ll have to punch a time clock to verify my presence for the foreseeable future to generate a steady flow of funds to my bank account. But for all that I do not and will not have, this much I know; I am rich with the things that matter most.

The moral of the story?

Prosperity is not so much about what you can see; yes it helps to see it, but it’s about what you do with what you can’t see.

I’ll bring home a check that is redeemable for a small amount of cash… but the experience is priceless.

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