Medics are standing by

I was born into the world feeling obligated. Obligated to be a good daughter, friend, neighbor, babysitter. In my 20’s, obligated to work with street youth and to make next to no money as a home health care aid and food bank staffer in South Seattle. And now, in my 40’s, obligated to make the world a better place through work with clients, remembering everyone’s birthdays, being an award-winning partner and mother, and living out my values. I can feel the exhaustion as I type this!

I’m starting to accept the invitation to work from a different place. Less striving, more allowing. Less gold stars, more pleasure. Less work, more fun. Less doing, more being. Less seriousness, more play. Less talking, more singing, as my friends at Music that Makes Community would say!

And I’m wondering, “What is my brand of activism?” There are so many things I care about—affordable housing, homelessness, poverty, racism, disability rights, climate change, loneliness, inclusion for anyone with marginalized identities. Do I need to be on the front lines of everything?

And then I read this message from from Steven Charleston, an indigenous elder from the Choctaw Nation:

SPIRITUAL MEDICS. I think you and I have been recruited as spiritual medics. We may not have asked for the job, but under the current circumstances we have been pressed into service. It is a tough world out there. Socially, economically, and politically, people are struggling around us. People are anxious, angry, and afraid. They are divided and uncertain. Conflicts are increasing. Into this reality the spiritual medic is called upon, again and again, to risk the safety of familiar trenches, to stand on open ground for the sake of peace. We won’t win any medals, but a lot of people are going to be glad we were there when they needed a little help believing in tomorrow. (From Ladder to the Light)

My husband is a paramedic, and it’s his job to be prepared, not to drive around rushing into anything he thinks might look like an emergency.

Being prepared means having spiritual practices of being that get me in good shape. Practices like praying, preparing nutritious food, sleeping, cultivating friendship, being outside, making art, reading books, singing, feeling righteous anger at the injustice in the world, and finding ways to listen and be kind to those around me.

When my husband was in paramedic training, it was grueling. 80 hours a week at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, his work going unseen or often criticized. He was away from us and slept in the parking garage some of the time, surviving on fast food breakfast sandwiches and gallons of coffee.

But now? He’s the one you want when you call 9-1-1. All that training has translated into calmness, centeredness, presence, and he regularly gets to help people who “need a little help believing in tomorrow.”

And we surely can’t help a hurting world if we haven’t attended to our own hurts. We can’t lead a healthy team if we’re not healthy ourselves. So, our charge might be: Get healthy. Get prepared. We need the spiritual medics standing by. I’m in.