I live in a world where someone getting seventy stitches from doing something stupid provokes a smirk rather than horror. And so I grieve the loss of a month old flying squirrel with a struggle, as I waver from stoicism to heartache, wondering how, in the course of a week, I could possibly become so attached to something who was not of this world to begin with.
Pip was saved from certain, horrible death when Capt. Tom and Chris Watford
(both of EMS12Lead.com
fame) after stepping outside of Tom's wedding party to talk,
found him in the driveway, being tomented by ants. I showed up in the middle of the incident and inadvertently found a new friend.
Pip, as my girls named him, then survived, thrived, and made a lot of people smile, only to die by walking away innocently from the source of heat in his newly purchased pen. The tragedy of this has been just that confined to a small box, he had a chance for life and given freedom, he lost that chance. Ironically, I wonder if that's how we came to meet Pip in the first place; that his wanderlust caused him to fall from his nest, his family, his mother, and to land in the hands of a bunch of normally rational and intelligent people who were befuddled as to what to do with a baby flying squirrel to best effect its outcome.
There, too, is more irony. These were a group of people who routinely deal in life and death, brought together for a happy occasion and were faced with a tragedy. Well equipped to save a human life, in dealing with a tiny, traumatized squirrel, we were faced with what bystanders must feel like when we arrive and take over, placing the fate of their loved one in our hands because they don't have that expertise. Instead of agonizing over it, we, that is, Tom, Chris, and now Kelly (Tom's new bride and author of BarefootNurse.com
) did what we always do: we solved the problem. We laughed about it, we made jokes about death and dying, but in the end, we very casually saved that life, and treated it like we always do, because it's what we do.
Saving lives, whether they be humans or infant squirrels, is just part of our fabric, like breathing, walking, or crying. People who don't do that for a living gasp and gush about how heroic these actions are. We weren't looking for accolades and still aren't. When someone says to me how amazing it is that I was going through such efforts to save a baby squirrel, I, as well as many of you, just shrug and say we wouldn't have done anything differently, and to us, it isn't heroic at all. It's just what we do. People like us simply aren't able to walk away.
I can't help but blame myself for knowing better, but there was always that part of me, that cynic inside, who says in order to grow, you have to take flight, and if you can't make it, maybe there's a reason. I agonize over the fact that I couldn't solve this issue and Pip died, literally in my hands. As I tried to re-warm him, his eyes opened and he squeaked several times, as if asking me what was happening. As incredibly stupid as this sounds, I take comfort in knowing the last thing he knew was that he was loved, but I continue to struggle with the fact that things could have been different, which is interesting for someone who is known to be as cold and rational as I can be sometimes.
I guess that cold and rational side comes because I know that often, it is the action I take that stands between life and death, loss and safety, disaster and miracle. I know I have to be objective, unemotional, and focused. I say to my charges that being good in this job isn't sufficient. We can't just hope for better outcomes to terrible situations. To be good in emergency services, we just take action because we do. We don't stand by and wring our hands, or wonder who is going to save the day. We just look at the facts presented to us and look at the resources we have near us, put two and two together and create eighteen. We make miracles from coat hangars and duct tape. In looking back at those who surrounded him on that Fall afternoon, the group assembled there by chance definitely fit the desciption of those who do these things.
Maybe that's why I feel so bad right now, because I know that despite my own self-sufficiency, I should know better than to expect others to be able to do the same thing without help. Not everyone can save lives, not everyone can manage crises, and the unknowing can't know that they are in peril until they get there. It's like God is laughing at me right now saying, "You think you interfere in natural selection? Let me show you how this really works…" I expect too much sometimes, I guess, and think others should be equipped equally. Instead of being so smug, I should be more forgiving, more tolerant, and use the gifts I have been given to help others without questioning why the more vulnerable can't. It's not their weakness I should be focusing on, but what gifts of strength and compassion God has given me.
Action is required to make the world a better place. It's easy to be cynical; vulnerability and attachment, as Buddha said, is the root of suffering. But it is in knowing that we have a gift to alleviate suffering, we should share, and eliminate it. If we have been so equipped with determination, intelligence, and courage, standing back when the vulnerable are at risk is contrary to the values of a civilized society.
If Pip gave me any lesson to share, it is this: Especially in today's society, when everyone is a victim and everyone else is to blame for our world's shortcomings, action is needed from those of us who are equipped to stand up for the defenseless. If we don't do it, nobody will. And furthermore, if we don't do it, the bullies, the trolls, the hatemongers, and the greedy win. I struggle as I know that I should not be agonizing over a glorified rat when children are going to bed hungry, or the elderly are being neglected, or homeless veterans are sleeping in the cold. People, human beings, deserve better. When I see the pain in those vulnerable populations, when I see that look asking me to help in their eyes, I know that pain comes from not understanding. Pain that to me, comes when they look at someone who is empowered to protect them, not because of any special honor or appointment, but because they can see in my eyes that I am someone who protects them from their vulnerabilities, and realize that I too, like them, am only human.
If there is a lesson to be taken from this, especially now and in this day, it is, that if we stand back and watch while others need an advocate, we are no better than those who cause the pain in our world today. This is not a time to be riding on a fence. It is time for us to stand up for what is right, not what is right by some measure of our wealth or comfort, but by what is right by our fellow man, and to be there, to provide comfort and assistance, and to, as Jesus called us to do, treat our neighbors as we, ourselves, wish to be treated. There may be reasons people are in dire situations, and while there are those who mistake our compassion for weakness and exploit it, there are many more who genuinely need us. And if we abandon them in their hour of need, we aren't even worthy of a glance from God when we are asking for mercy on our own mortal souls.
Do the right thing. Reach out and help others. Break the cynicsm. There is no earthly reason why we shouldn't. If you fail to do this, it's not on me, it's on you. Strive to make a difference in the world and do something for your neighbor. Maybe our world will have a chance to shine after all. I'm sure Pip would have appreciated that he re-inspired my motivation to prod others in that direction.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." – Gandhi