I stared as the red and white ambulance careened a corner and was gone. I couldn't help but think how lucky that man was to have that person there for comfort. I would hate to be in that vehicle alone. No one wants to go through something like that without someone there with them. The other person talks, listens, encourages, supports, prays and even assists when necessary. The injured don't have to go through their crisis alone, because someone who cares is right there beside them.
There are times I've had to climb into the back of ambulances like that. As a matter of fact it was just recently; only the ambulance wasn't a vehicle. It was the side of a lake and the person wasn't bleeding physically. He was bleeding emotionally. Together we sat by that lake on the damp ground as he talked and I listened. I wrapped my arms around him as I told him how he would pull through and make it. Together, we let ourselves weep as we reached out to each other in a way that drew us closer.
There have been other ambulances as well. A classroom. My back porch. A picnic table at a park. A car. A swing. Each time I took a hand, listened and said those encouraging words, "Hold on. You can make it. This will pass."
Life is full of "ambulance rides." Families are in the ambulance due to divorce or illness or a rebellious youth. Financial catastrophes are rampant, careers come to an abrupt halt with lay offs or businesses folding. Addictions, whether alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling or even eating, can send someone into the back of an ambulance. It can be anything.
And it can happen at anytime. No one knows when a crisis is going to hit. You can't put it in your day planner or on your calendar. They just arrive, tearing through your quiet life turning everything on end.
Janice knows. She called work the other day asking if we had heard from her husband. We hadn't, not since he had left the night before. She didn't know what to do. He never came home the night he worked. He took the car, emptied the bank account and just left. No note. No phone call. He didn't say goodbye to her. He didn't say goodbye to his five year-old son.
Another family was looking forward to Thanksgiving and having their children all together again. On the way to their house, almost there, their youngest son, recently graduated from high school, was in a car crash. He died on impact.
Each person went into the back of the ambulance bleeding from life's wounds. When faced alone, these events can be devastating enough to cripple the person for the rest of their life. Some will pull through, but not all. However, with someone in the ambulance with them the ride isn't so lonely or as long, and they will pull through it.
That is where we come in. First, they need our presence. Sometimes just having someone beside us is the comfort we need. It proves we are not alone; that someone cares, and that gives us hope to fight. So much activity can be going on in the back of an ambulance that all the person riding along can do is sit there and watch. They just need to know you’re there. Once they feel your presence, they gain comfort. Then the next step comes.
Listen. They need our ears and our attention. Listening is truly a lost art form. People are too rushed. I have even caught myself sitting there while someone else is sharing something with me, my mind is wandering to a manuscript I've been working on or some event I am planning. I'm staring at them. My head is bobbing at all the right times. Yet, I'm not hearing a word the other person is saying. I had to train myself to put my mind in the present, not on something other than what the person I am talking to is saying. They need my undivided attention. They need yours. They don't need us faking it. Besides, how can you ever really help anyone unless you first listen to them.
And then give the encouraging words. They may not believe that everything will turn around. When we’re in the storm, it’s sometimes hard to see the rainbow promised at the end. They just want to scream, and cry. Let them, but tell them to keep fighting, as well. "Don't give up," tell them. "Don't give in."
The final thing we can do is assist where possible. A family close by had their home burn down and lost everything. People donated food, clothes, and toys for the kids and even put the family up in a hotel, trying to be a bright spot in a dark situation. Don’t be afraid to lend a hand or even a few bucks. We can be so self-absorbed we don’t see the need around us that we can easily meet. If it is within your means to help, then it is your duty to do so.
Open your eyes to those around you and the pain they may be enduring. Be there. Listen. Encourage. Pray. Assist. Don't allow them to get into the ambulance alone. Ride with them, hold their hand and be the friend they need. You’re going to want them there when it’s your turn to go into the ambulance.
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