“What a piece of work is man
How noble in reason,
How infinite in faculties,
In form and moving how express and admirable!
In action how like an angel,
In apprehension (understanding) how like a god!”
Oklahoma City… If you do some research you’ll see that it’s mentioned on almost every list of the top ten places to live in this country. The boom in the oil economy has led to a low unemployment rate. A progressive mayor who has encouraged his citizens to invest on infrastructure, people who have lost thousands of pounds through an internet based portal… Like they say in the old Broadway musical, everything’s coming up roses.
Overnight these people who have worked so hard to secure a safe and comfortable life for their families have seen their security vanish. Think about it: if you cannot ever be safe in the comfort of your home; if you cannot be sure that you won’t ever see your children again when they leave for school, life stops being a blessing. You are relegated to a constant state of alertness, worry, and anxiety. Imagine. Everything that means anything to you: vanished, in minutes, with little hope of going back to your almost perfect life, just as it was.
I work in health care. I’m used to dealing with how precious yet fragile life can be. I have seen thousands of unsuspecting people torn apart by violence, accidents, disease, even financial distress. My major source of pride is that I can walk into these situations and I can make a difference by making the correct diagnosis, or writing a prescription, or holding a hand and listening. It’s what defines me. I should be ashamed of saying this, but being a doctor has always come first. I know my family has suffered some from this decision I made; of course they also have reaped rewards.
Years ago one of the people I love came down with a serious illness. All of a sudden my knowledge; my experience; my patience and understanding were worth next to nothing. The basic core of my being; everything that I had worked so hard to develop could not keep significant others away from pain and suffering. Add to that the feelings of guilt and regret that we all go through in these situations: we want to turn the clock back.
Maybe we should not have driven down that road. If we had only stayed at this house five minutes longer we would have missed the drunk driver, or the tornado, or the lunatic on a shooting binge. If I had spent more time being a father and husband and son; if we had paid more attention to that diet and exercise program…
It’s different when it happens to you. Then you realize just how fraught and hazardous life is. How much strength of will and character it takes to get up every morning and put your shoes on. At these moments you’re inundated by an overpowering sense of loneliness. How can I possibly live through this? How am I supposed to make it? Why not quit?
The only answer lies in the infinite faculties that Shakespeare mentioned. We have the ability; dare I say the sacred obligation to act like angels and understand like gods at these moments. We must go way, way out of our path to help out those who have suffered. Take it one step further: we need to do this every day; we need to smile at everyone we see (how do we know if they’re suffering or not?); we need to become god incarnates and angels if we’re going to be able to make it through this mess.
Because it’s different when it happens to you.
(Most of you know that I work for SSM Health Care. We have a large presence in Oklahoma, most significantly in the Oklahoma City area. A few SSM employees lost a dear one during the recent storms; many have lost their homes and everything they own. I’m sure you’re familiar with all of the work people have to go through to file death and insurance paperwork. Some of our employees have not had a chance to get through to see what’s left. They need help now.
I urge you to send a contribution, no matter how small, to the SSM employee relief form or to one of the many agencies that help out. Even one dollar, when multiplied by a million donors, will make a huge difference.
Checks written to the St. Anthony Foundation
SSM Health Care
Attn. Linda Walls
477 North Lindbergh
St. Louis, Mo. 63141
Please write “tornado relief” on your check.
God bless you all.)