I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t understand. I have images burned into my brain – that have wounded and scarred me to the core of my being. I’ve seen things that no caring person should ever have to see.
The other day, a cop friend of mine was talking about some of the things she has seen. She mentioned how they joke about using the MIB “flashy thing” when they retire – to erase all the things they’ve seen.
The next day, a paramedic friend of mine told me about a horrendous car wreck he responded to when he was still a “wet-behind-the-ears,” 21 year old, newly-minted, paramedic. These images never leave us.
It was hard for us to come from a church that was trying hard to serve the community around us, to a church that seemed to be very ego-centric. In fact, even those within the church – regular attenders, and not-so-regular attenders – who were in need of support, were often ignored. It didn’t help that my own family was going through our own personal crisis. I was quite frustrated that the people who seemed to have it all together, wanted more; and those that were hurting and broken were being ignored.
In addition to my family’s personal survival struggles, I spent my time reaching out to the unreached, the hurting, and the broken. As Jesus said, “I didn’t come to heal the healthy, I cam to help the sick.“
Over the past three weeks, I’ve been plunged back into the abyss of society’s broken people. The folks I see as a paramedic, are terribly broken, terribly wounded, and terribly lost – in many ways. Due to HIPPA privacy laws and professional etiquette, I am unable to share great details. But somehow I want to convey the utter brokenness of people in our midst. While there are a great number of people who live in stable homes, in stable environments, and who have regular medical issues – there are many whose lives are so far removed from our own, that you may actually believe they are from another world.
People so poor, financially, spiritually, and socially, that they allow people into their homes who are abusing their children – just because they need a caretaker, or a companion.
People so poor, financially, spiritually, and socially, that they allow people into their homes who are abusing their children – just because they need a caretaker, or a companion. People so broken, that they lay in their own excrement and urine for days on end. People so broken, that when you first see them, you wonder how they even survive.
Emotionally, these folks are so broken that you see no soul in their eyes. Physically, they often look 20-30 years older than their actual age. Spiritually, they are lost. No longer wandering, no longer seeking – just hopelessly lost. They have been abandoned by their families, discarded by their friends, and swept aside by society. They live in the nooks and crannies of our cities – wherever they can find space.
I’m not talking about the homeless tramps downtown, nor am I talking about the mentally ill who wander the streets. I’m talking about the people who came from relatively normal homes. But because of physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse, they have been broken, busted, and discarded. Nothing short of a miracle could save them now.
As I drove home the other night, my own spirit was overwhelmed by what I’d seen that day. I reflected on the people I’d seen over the past week. I reflected on people I’d seen over the past month. They call 9-1-1 for assistance, but they don’t really have an emergency. They need help, but it isn’t the kind of help a paramedic can offer. And even though we take them to the emergency department at the nearest hospital, there really isn’t anything they can do either. A few hours later, these people are discharged and sent home – but they’re just as broken, nothing has changed.
One lady told me she called for a taxi, but because she didn’t have the $10 for the cab fare, the taxi wouldn’t take her to the hospital. She didn’t need an ambulance, but we don’t refuse people. So, she called 9-1-1 and within minutes she had three firefighters and two paramedics in her living room. There was nothing we could do for her, except take her to the hospital. What she needed was caring family and friends, what she got was an impersonal cadre of emergency responders and a ride to the hospital. My heart bleeds.
As I drove home the other night, my frustration with the Church, for being so damn egocentric, turned to anger.
We saw a lady the other day who, according to one firefighter/paramedic, had been transported by ambulance over 60 times in the last year. She was lying in a heap outside her front door. She was so mentally exhausted that she could barely get on the stretcher. We would take her to the hospital, they would evaluate her, and she would be out the door in a few hours – because there was nothing medically wrong with her. The “system” is not designed to deal with these people. In fact, there really is no system in place. They take resources from those who may be having a true medical emergency, they cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, and they cycle through the system over and over again, until they die.
- Is it their fault that they’re broken? No.
- Is it their responsibility to overcome their brokenness? Yes.
- Do they know how to overcome their deplorable condition? No.
- Is it a waste of money to send fire rigs and ambulances to their calls? Yes.
- Can we stop sending emergency responders? No.
- Is their a better way? Probably – I just don’t know what it is.
We walked into the middle of a tornado. Four generations of women living in one desperate home. The tragedy that was unfolding left everyone in tears. It was a painful experience to be there – and yet, it was a privilege. I held their hands, tried to help them make sense of death, looked them in the eye, and did my best to bear some of the weight.
My soul hurts for those who live lives of constant pain.
Later that night, lying on my bed, I wept. My soul hurts for those who live lives of constant pain. My soul weeps for those who have the means, but not the will to step into these lives, and share the love that has been so freely shared with them. I wept, because the pain is great.
Then Jesus wept.” John 11:35
More than a box of food, or a series of Bible studies, people need a friend – a genuine neighbor, who cares about them. Someone who will listen, without judging – or trying to “fix” them. Someone who will hold their hand when tragedy strikes, and someone who will walk with them, over the rough patches of life.
People need unconditional love – love on purpose, and without ulterior motives.
People need unconditional love – love on purpose, and without ulterior motives. The kind of love God shares with us. We need to pass it on to others, no matter how scary that sounds.
How much worse does it have to get?