Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are We Our Brother's Keepers? - Part 1 Receiving

By Steven P. Velasquez, NREMTP, MICP

During paramedic school, I went through a level of economic hardship I've never known till or since then.  I was 830 miles from home, totally unprepared to live on my own, never learned how to balance a check book, manage a budget or pay anything larger than a car payment and my beeper bill (it was the 90s no cell phones yet).  Now, trying to juggle tuition, books, rent, utilities, the truck payment, insurance etc… etc…  I was overwhelmed.  I had been evicted from several apartments, had checks bouncing all over the place, couldn’t pay a traffic summons, then got caught driving on a suspended license which, of course cost my employment too.  My parents did not have the resources to pay my way and I squandered all nine of my years of high school partying instead of learning and perhaps qualifying for a scholarship.

During that period, overwhelmed, depressed and nearly beaten, I had, at the invitation of a loving partner, begun attending a United Methodist Church where I had been introduced to a peaceful man who helped me sort through many struggles.  Pastor Morris taught me a valuable lesson regarding giving and receiving.  With several years of volunteer fire and EMS service under my belt, I knew the joy of giving to those in need.  I thought I was in touch with Christianity by being associated with volunteerism and thus giving.

Greenville Memorial Hosp., Greenville, S.C.
One afternoon I was at the hospital doing my ER rotation and at about two o'clock, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of “I don't want to be here anymore.”  I lied to my clinical coordinator and told her I didn’t feel well and needed to leave.  As I walked across the hospital parking lot, I bumped into none other than – Pastor Morris.  He was on his way in to tend to the infirmed of his flock.  When he saw me, he something in me (perhaps my heart dangling heavily before me) and asked if I wanted to sit & talk for a while.  He sat with me for over two hours and listened to my woes.

Pastor was a wise man with a kind soul.  I had grown up in the Catholic Church and wasn't used to Christian education emitting from a man in blue jeans and a button-down shirt.  His message was also contrary to the grain of my upbringing too.  He wanted to talk to me about “receiving” when my entire life I had always associated Christianity with “giving.”

I told Pastor about the immense internal struggle I faced accepting the support I had received from my fellow students and their families.  Often, they'd take me to their families homes for dinner.  Sometimes they'd come by and invite me out to eat.  When I’d play it off and attempt to dodge the issue by claiming I had to study, they countered, “We didn't ask if you had money.  We invited you to eat.”  They knew I was in dire circumstances and the only thing keeping me from cutting my losses and returning to NJ was my unshakable belief that I will come home a paramedic here and now, not some other time or other place (Yoda’s voice in the background “Do or do not. There is no try”).

Sometimes I'd get to school just after the janitors and find my way to a men's room where I'd wash up before attending class.  I'd borrow a dollar or two and get a Snickers and a soda from the machines.  And that would be it till who knows when.  When I did live with a roommate, we'd dress to the nines on Wednesday nights because it was happy hour (dollar Buds & free buffet till 10) at the local Holiday Inn where there was a DJ.  With a borrowed dollar in hand, we'd get there at five, purchase our dollar Bud and keep that bottle in our hand for a few hours while we raided the buffet table.    OK, so have I painted a sufficient picture of broke yet?

Back to Pastor Morris in the hospital cafeteria; he saw that I was enormously conflicted with being too proud to accept people's charity and too poor to deny it.  He explained to me that often, before becoming big givers of anything in this world, we must first learn, understand and appreciate what it is to be a big receiver first. 

I got to see firsthand that during a time of need, my brothers kept me.  We are our brother's keeper.

No comments:

Post a Comment