I’ve made it no surprise that for quite awhile my life revolved around money, power, girls and status. I wanted a powerful job title at a powerful company that struck fear into my subordinates and made my friends drool with envy. I wanted a bank account that allowed me to buy ‘trophies’ and material possessions that outdid others, and illustrated the fact that I had lots of money. I wanted ‘rapper’ money. For example, a long time goal of mine was having a wrist watch that cost five times the average mortgage payment. Relationship wise, all I wanted was a girl that looked good on my arm, and didn’t mind spending my money. Everything else was just noise and obstacles to overcome. That was me as recently as early 2010.
Over the last year all the false, materialistic, self-centered goals and drive in my life have virtually disappeared. I recently got over it completely. All I needed to do was watch strangers dying.
Let me explain a bit before you write this off as a “Dana’s lost his mind and gone emo, emu or whatever” post…
This June I started EMT classes. Becoming an EMT was not something I ever imagined for myself. If anything, my behavior and actions were designed to keep EMTs in business. Part of Clark County’s requirements for becoming an EMT state that you must do a 12 hour ER rotation at a hospital, as well as a 12 hour ambulance ride-along. Beyond showing up and leaving on time, you’re pretty much able to do whatever you want for those 24 hours. You can sit around and watch all day/night, or jump in and get dirty with whatever is within your scope. (Under strict supervision by doctors and nurses.)
Most people would agree that they’d rather never spend any time in an ER or an ambulance. It ranks as being slightly worse than going to the dentist or the DMV. However, when you show up in one of these places as ‘the help to the help,’ it takes on a different feeling / role. I wasn’t providing primary care to patients like the nurses or doctors were, so at many times I was able to take a step back and look at things as an outsider, while still being engaged. (Keep in mind I live in Las Vegas, a place where your daily experience is pretty much defined by how much money and stuff you have. ER Rooms are about the complete polar opposites. )
What I saw during those shifts was absolutely eye opening. All these strangers were in bad shape. They were in their darkest hours, scared, confused and hurting. Years earlier all I saw was Movados, Mont Blancs, BMWs/Benz’s and blondes. Now I was staring face to face with a teenage suicidal girl who never even had a chance at life, a married couple that after 41yrs was making the most of their remaining time together, and a dedicated son doing everything he could to make his ailing mom comfortable as she passed.
Worse yet, I saw people completely alone and in pain, with no one to comfort them. I saw people mentally altered, who had no idea where they were, who these ‘strangers’ were or what was happening to them. I saw people talking and behaving fine one minute then completely crashing the next. A split second and the game changes completely for one person. I saw combative patients who had to be restrained because they were physically attacking the RNs and doctors who were only trying to help them. I saw it all, but the honest to god, most powerful thing I saw were people close to death only wanting a hand to hold; stranger, family, EMT, rescuer, whomever. Confused, hurting, scared and dying, with their remaining strength reaching for someone’s hand.
The first time I saw it was a few months ago, and whether it was the rush of adrenaline, the energy of the event, or just me being pathetic, it spun my world and almost brought me to tears. It was an elderly person, who maybe had an hour before hypothermia put them down for good. I’d never met this person, nor will I ever meet him again, but I was there to help, and hold their hand when they needed it. This person now has at least another Christmas to spend with their children, grand-children etc. and a chance to hold more hands.
That day I realized it doesn’t matter the hand you hold, it doesn’t matter if it’s got a $40,000 Patek Philippe watch on or if it’s holding a $1k Mont Blanc Pen. Cufflinks don’t matter nor whether it’s manicured or moisturized. Whatever steering wheel the hand was on prior to getting to you doesn’t matter, nor does whatever property that hand holds keys too. When it comes down to it, it probably doesn’t even matter how many fingers the hand has so long as you have that human touch comforting you. It’s the most important thing.
I know I’ve had people in my life look up to me for the material possessions I’ve acquired, the amount of money I make or whatever girl I’ve had on my arm. Hell, I’ve looked up to people like that as well and at times that’s all I personally cared about. However, I’m telling you today all that stuff is garbage, none of it matters. It’s nice to have things, and it’s nice to live comfortably, but what matters most is your personal relationships, marriages and families. The people you help and the people who will offer you their hand to hold before you even need it.
The simple fact is people hold hands all the time, and most of the time it’s an afterthought. Start considering it more than that, because I can promise you that one day it will be the absolute most important thing to you. When you go to bed tonight, think about who’s hand you’ll hold, or who might hold your hand. If you can, make sure those people know how special they are to you. Sometimes, it’s all you need to survive.