Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Meaning of It All

Though Mrs. Unknown and I walked down the aisle to "The Creator Has a Master Plan," the song's title is not a notion I particularly subscribe to. I've always viewed such statements as "Nothing happens without a reason" and "It's all part of God's plan" as something we tell ourselves to reconcile our spirits to the brutal randomness of life. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people. Moral conduct does not dictate the rewards and/or punishments in life. There really is no rhyme nor reason to it. It's really terrifying stuff. But if, somehow, this is all part of some mysterious plan, then life's brutality doesn't seem so brutal. It can all be explained away. It doesn't make all the pain go away, but it sure helps it to hurt less.

Yet, there are times, when life throws a string of coincidences together that lead to an event, when you find yourself wonder what was the meaning of what just happened.

Mrs. Unknown, fresh back from Haiti, has a few days off. So, she dropped me off at work yesterday morning so she can have the car. I decided, as soon as I got to work, that I was going to work exactly eight hours and 45 minutes (with my daily two-hour commute and having to drop off and pick up the Missus and Poohbutt, I hardly ever get a full eight-hour workday in and have to work Saturdays to get anywhere near 40 hours; so yesterday, I thought I'd take advantage by working longer).

At work, I'm reading Fundamentalist preacher, Max Lucado's Fearless, which is basically, as far as I can tell, about how the absence of God in our lives leads to us leading a fearful existence. However, if we lived with God in our lives, knew the role He has fulfilled with his life, death, and resurrection, we would no longer need to fear life's petty trials and tribulations and go on to greatness. Fearless is not something I'd be reading outside of work--and rarely at work. I do enjoy an occasional theological text, but self-help Christianity usually leaves me pretty hostile. But it's work. You often have to do things you don't want to do. For me this week, it's reading Max Lucado's Fearless.

And just before I was leaving work, I was reading the chapter on the fear of death and how Jesus' own fear of dying almost destroyed him, but that it was His trust in the Father that carried him through Gethsemane:

"Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."

But since I was hungry and my wife had mentioned getting something to eat after she picked me up, I was thinking more about pizza and burgers than the body and blood of Christ as I walked to catch the train.

However, when I made my way to the underground bus terminal at my subway station, I caught a glimpse of a little Latino lying on his back on the sidewalk. Nobody seemed to be paying him much attention, so I thought it was just your usual, unusual urban weirdness. Then he started doing some weird, trance-like motions like Lindsey Vonn "visualizing" her downhill ski run. Worthy of mockery and ridicule on TV. A little disturbing in real life.

I started tentatively approaching, not knowing exactly what to do. People were starting to get a little curious. A middle-aged woman biked up to me out of nowhere, and urgently asked if anyone was calling an ambulance. I walked over to a guy on a cellie and was about to ask him when the guy on the ground made this weird gurgling sound. All our eyes shot down at him to see blood bubbling out of the guy's mouth. And he was shaking like his own, private earthquake.

I immediately dove down and pulled the guy onto his side, terrified he was going to drown in his own blood, or something. Another guy appeared out of nowhere, trying to hold the man's head up. He quickly moved his gloved hand away. It was covered in blood.

"I don't think it's a very deep gash."

I looked. There was a deep red pool of the deepest red blood you'd ever see where the guy's head had just been. People started screaming, "Call 911! Call 911!" The guy I'd been about to ask said he was on the phone with them. A bus driver had come off his bus to also make the call.

He was talking. The other guy was talking. The bicycle woman kept asking, "Is he all right?" People were walking by, crowding around, "What happened?" "Is he all right?"

Seizures ensued. I struggled to hold the guy still. My partner announced himself as a doctor and tried to pry the guy's mouth open--so he wouldn't bite his tongue, choke on his tongue, drown in his own blood. I don't know. It sounded like he was choking.

Another guy appeared and tried speaking Spanish to the guy. To no avail. He was totally out of it. For 10-15 minutes, I tried to control the guy's bucking, the doctor kept his hand pressed against the man's scalp to stanch the bleeding, blood was pooling everywhere, and the third guy constantly soothed, "Tranquilo ... tranquilo..."

Every once in awhile, our "patient" gave me a look that scared me half to death. It was glassy and vacant, yet truly terrified. And he seemed to be searching--looking at me--looking through me--questioning--looking for some sort of recognition--some sort of meaning to what was happening to him. And then he would spasm violently. Once knocking me over. I don't speak Spanish. All I could think of was "Ta bueno ... Ta bueno ..." not even sure that meant anything. But he'd calm down eventually.

It seemed to take forever. Though, really, it didn't. But the paramedics finally arrived. They really had no need for us. Didn't even acknowledge our existence. Or ask what happened. And the bunch of us, I guess, Samaritans just dissolved, getting on our buses and our trains and calling it an evening.

I sure hope the guy, whoever he is, all right.

'Cause all of that would've meant nothing if he isn't.


J9 said...

Not true that all the work meant nothing. I'm betting that every one of the samaritans and witnesses went home last night and hugged their loved ones a little bit longer.

nunya said...

Thank you for caring. Thank you for doing something. Hopefully the guy has been here long enough to know that you were trying to tell him everything will be ok. He will remember that someone cared.

mjd said...

Wow, Bill, that's an amazing story. That must have been a difficult experience. I've never been in that situation, myself, but in my line of work we see people hurt all the time. I like to hope I'll react that well when that happens.

I'm not sure about God's plan (or even that He exists) but I am sure that there is no higher purpose than helping the helpless. Good on you, Bill.