My wife wasn’t exactly yelling; rather, she was being quite “passionate” (as she explains it) in reminding me of the proper protocol for dealing with bloody injuries. “Apply pressure, you need to apply pressure!” was what I heard in my ear as my wife and I assessed the situation and did what we could to help the elderly man, his face torn and gashed, and bleeding profusely.
It had been a normal enough day so far as we finished our lunch at a local southern-fried, cajun-spiced, buttered-biscuit establishment with my wife’s parents and our oldest daughter who lives in Pennsylvania, (which by the way, is a part of the country where such saturated goodness simply cannot be found.) They had come down for a few days to celebrate my wife’s birthday and were now about to depart on the 7-hr return adventure of never-ending asphalt and moronic drivers who apparently navigate by viewing the road ahead through their cell phone’s screen, rather than adhering to the time-tested wisdom of actually looking through their own windshield. My son had just come back inside after retrieving something from his car, and told me that an older man had fallen in the parking lot. Some instincts die hard, like those learned and honed on the streets while working as a police officer years prior. Once again I found myself moving toward the problem, while the majority of other patrons fulfilled their societal duties of being good sheep, and continued chewing their food and watching the situation from the warm, safe confines of their greasy lunch tables. (This is one topic that I will discuss passionately, but I’ll save my rant about sheep and wolves for another post . . .)
Although he was covered in blood, I could still see the gentle kindness of an older soul in that soft face, the product of a another time and place, a world now long gone. He was sitting on the cold black parking lot, having righted himself after a face-first fall off the curb just outside the main entrance. As he fumbled for his handkerchief to wipe himself up, I got down at parking lot level with him and began to assess the situation while introducing myself, making my best attempt to become someone he could trust in this moment of need. My wife joined me, drawing on recent medical training she had completed through her workplace, and together we were able to render some assistance to this 92 year-old gentleman named Elmer while we waited for the ambulance to show up. With some clean towels from the restaurant, I did indeed apply pressure to the worst of the gashes as my wife instructed, and began to compile answers to the questions I knew the EMS crew would be asking once they arrived. They were loading him aboard the ambulance as we left, and although I never heard further, I’m sure my friend Elmer will heal just fine, despite the temporary pain and embarrassment of some facial scars.
“Well boy, aren’t you something! You need another horn to toot?!?”
I can hear what you’re thinking. No, we didn’t do anything that day that deserves praise, and anyone who knows me will confirm that I shy away from the limelight. My only purpose for relating this story is that in retrospect, I observed something that is increasingly troubling to me – a general loss of compassion on the most personal level, an utter shame that we as a society are responsible for encouraging. Yes, there were individuals from the business who provided towels and called 911, but considering the number of people who chose not to get involved, I’m convinced that we have become a people who relish the virtual disconnect that modern life affords us. No longer do we feel obligated to get our hands dirty or put ourselves in harm’s way to offer assistance to a person in need – even if that person is a 92 year-old laying in a parking lot.
Does this bother me?
Shouldn’t it bother us all?
The problem as I see it is twofold: First, how do we react in that moment when pressure is applied to us and we are faced with a decision to either respond or to retreat? Then secondly, do our actions reflect those of a person focused on the needs of others or rather on the self-preservation of our own notoriety?
The term “saving face” took on a new meaning for me that day. When life applies pressure and you have to make a move, whose face will you be be most concerned about? There will be time to check your own in the mirror later – lets focus on the faces of those who God brings our way instead.
“But if anyone sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17 (ESV)