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The Society of Campus Ministers
Happy (liturgical) new year! For those of you, dear readers, who come from less liturgically focused traditions, the season of Advent encompasses the four Sundays before Christmas and prompts us to prepare for Christ’s coming as a baby into our world. It’s officially the start of the next yearly rotation of liturgical seasons. And I find this season fascinating, because it’s both the beginning and the end. It prepares us for Christmas, specifically to recognize that when Christ arrived bodily into this world, he was both the savior (big responsibility) and a defenseless, helpless infant (itty bitty operating capacity).
But Advent also points to the end. And yeah, I mean like that crazy guy on the corner with ‘the end is near’ on a sandwich board, end of the world type stuff. Advent also prompts us to prepare ourselves and be vigilant for that. Like the story of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew’s gospel, we don’t know when Christ will come into this world again, so we need to keep alert. And Advent helps us with that, but for me it’s also a reminder that the encounter with Christ changes everything. Christ as a baby changes everything. Christ will come again with angels and loud trumpet calls and everything will change.
Did I mention that I’m fascinated by Advent? But I’m also really bad at it. I’m not usually in the groove of Advent until the third or fourth Sunday. And then it’s basically over and we’ve got twelve days for the Christmas celebration. Yay! And I’m that jerk who will insist on saying “Happy Advent” while everyone else is fighting about “Merry Christmas,” but I’ll start saying “Merry Christmas” on the 25th of December and I’ll keep saying it until the 6th of January, while everyone else is like “what is this guy doing? Christmas is over…”
So that’s (probably) the end of the didactic part of today’s blog…
Lots of updates from me with the new (liturgical) year: Some of you following along at home have been tracking that I finished up with my Army training a couple of months ago. So that’s cool because now I’m a qualified Army medic and I can report to my unit, which is armored and that means that I’m working with the guys who operate the tanks. That’s really cool.
Since I’m done with training, I also got a new tattoo. I had been wanting some kind of semicolon tattoo, but I didn’t know quite how I would go it. But when I was in San Antonio for training, one of my instructors had this ;IGY6 tattoo and he explained it to us and it was like a light bulb for me. I knew right away that that was how I would do my semicolon tattoo. So I think that’s pretty cool too.
The last update before I start doing my reflective bloggy thing is that I got a new job! Since part of the requirements now for Army medics is to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician’s test, I am a certified EMT. So I decided to take that and go work on an ambulance. The entry level job for EMTs is what’s called BLS/Interfacility transfer. It’s kinda like being a glorified medical taxi. We can transfer medically stable patients from one hospital to another, or we can take old folks from their nursing home to the clinic for an appointment (in cases where they need the ambulance because they can’t sit up in a wheelchair), and we can take discharged patients home if they’re unable to drive themselves or go in a wheelchair for whatever reason.
Some people don’t like working interfacility because it’s not exciting, or you see the same thing over and over. Meanwhile I think it’s important because everyone has dignity. I think this is important work because we can provide care for someone who just went through one of the worst days of their life, and get them to where they need to go for continued care. What sticks with me is that we also transfer mental health patients. Sometimes that’s tough for me because I still need to recognize that these patients are worthwhile and they still have dignity and I’m just tired, I’m not actually frustrated at them when it’s the third or fourth mental health patient in a row that we’re transporting.
These people are still worthwhile. It’s still a privilege for me to provide care and take them to where they need to go.
Take for example the guy that I transferred the other day. I’ll call him K. We got the call for K because he had been in the emergency department too long and he needed to be admitted at a different facility, a facility that could actually provide care for him. Walking in there, all I knew was that K was on a transfer hold, so more than likely he had been suffering from what we call “suicidal ideation.” So whether or not he attempted it, he had told someone he was thinking about killing himself.
And the sad fact is that this guy was too easy to write off. He was anxious and depressed, he had a history of mental health issues, he was a drug user… too easy. But when I walked in, I saw a memorial tattoo on his right arm. It was the boots and the rifle with the helmet perched on top. And the helmet had a unit patch on it. 1st Cav. This guy was a tanker. And suddenly it was like K was one of my guys.
As we got rolling in the ambulance, I was getting K’s info for my report. Part of the report included his destination, which I knew because we were transporting him, but I decided to check with him to see whether he knew. He didn’t. In fact, he had been unaware that he would be transferred that night at all. The last he had been told, the nursing staff was going to look into what kind of options he had, and then get back to him to see what he wanted to do. That never happened and instead, my partner and I showed up all of a sudden and said we were there to take him away. And as I tried to explain the situation to him, he asked whether he was going to a locked mental health unit and I had to tell him the truth. Yes. He was going to a locked unit.
Somewhere in there the mental floodgates opened and he started telling me everything. About the caseworkers who didn’t help him, the troubles he had getting treatment at the VA, about the ways his mind played tricks on him and made him not be able to trust people. He said that he’s tried to kill himself so many times, in so many ways and it hasn’t worked and he didn’t know why.
So I showed him my tattoo. I told him that I got it for him. Because I didn’t want him to be a statistic of veteran suicide. He took one look at it and told me that he loves a semicolon because there was some song about how there’s always more to see after a semicolon and people’s lives are like that; that every time you encounter someone, there’s always going to be something more to see. He said that every time you look for that something more that you come away changed.
When we dropped K off at his destination hospital, I shook his hand. I told him to take care of himself. To keep pushing and get to the place where he needs to be. He thanked me and said that after the ambulance ride tonight, he was feeling some real hope again. He told me that we both were going away changed that night and said I should remember that.
He was right. He was absolutely right.
Meeting with K changed everything. Meeting with Christ changes everything. Are we not called to seek the face of Christ everyday, everywhere, and in everyone? So is everyday Advent?
Forgive me, dear reader, I wax too poetical. But I hope that you see my point. I firmly believe that Christ shows up as one of the least, the last, or the lost (like Matthew 25:31-46). I believe that we see him every day, but most days we don’t recognize him. But in the same way that Advent points to, any encounter with Christ’s divinity can change everything.
I am well aware that Advent stirs up (ha!) in me the same passion that is sparked by the sports ball, or cute animals. in other people. When Family Feud asks what the top ten things that provoke emotional tears are, “struggling mightily for justice and right relationship despite great odds!” is not usually up […]
|Here are the readings for Advent II, 2018 (Year C).|
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