Yesterday, I told Lindsay I was going to write about her, but it has turned out to be harder than I thought, because every time I start, I write like Lindsay talks which is way too fast, helter-skelter, cutting people off, which is also how Lindsay drives.
OK, I think I got that out of my system now.
I met Lindsay last summer, when she joined the volunteer ambulance corps that I devote much of my time to. This was about a month after she turned eighteen, our minimum age for membership, and about a month after she graduated from high school. She had been recruited and was being mentored by my long-time partner, Gail, so she became part of our crew while starting her EMT training.
On day-one, Lindsay started calling me “Pauly,” something no one had ever done before. I suppose that was her adolescent way of testing me, because when she asked if it was OK, and I calmly said I would prefer it otherwise, she kept doing it, and reminding me that she was doing it. After discussing the matter for a couple of weeks, but only when she raised the subject, she stopped. Then I was free to see her for who she truly is.
I had already noted that she is a slender young woman with straight brown hair, the face of an Irish saint, and a lot of energy. She wears a delicate crucifix of substantial size on a chain, never hidden, always on top of her clothes. On her wrist, she has a woven strap with the letters “WWJD” – “What Would Jesus Do?” I was a little surprised to learn that she comes from a very troubled family, and both of her older brothers are “well-known to the police,” as the saying goes. (Now, Lindsay, too, is well-known to the police, but only because she does so many ambulance calls, both on and off-duty, that every time a cop in our town looks over his shoulder, Lindsay is coming through the door with an ambulance jump-kit.)
At the time Lindsay volunteered with the ambulance, she was already volunteering as a CCD teacher for the local Catholic parish. She was also working at a summer program for autistic children and starting her first semester of college, preparing to teach special education.
But before our crew really gelled, Gail had to leave the ambulance corps to accommodate her expanded work schedule. This left just me and Lindsay on the Tuesday day shift, short one qualified member to actually transport a patient. (We need a qualified driver and a fully qualified EMT in back.) So Lindsay and I started answering our calls by going together to the scene in my car to begin patient care, while dispatch searched for an off-duty member who could “pull on,” get a rig (ambulance) and come get us, or a mutual aid ambulance from a neighboring town.
Before this, I hadn’t had a good chance to see Lindsay work with patients; because Gail was her mentor, I drove on most calls, while Gail and Lindsay worked together in back. Now it was me and Lindsay, on scene with patients, waiting for a rig to come get us. I was amazed at how calm Lindsay was with patients, how serious and comforting. Even when I could see her uncertainty, I doubt if anyone else could. Her youthful compassion was the perfect placebo for people who were sick or in pain.
In a couple of weeks, Jeanne joined our crew and became Lindsay’s official mentor. It was a great fit, and we became The Tuesday Crew, three religious nuts tearing around town with red lights and a siren, bandaging peoples’ hurts, spreading love and compassion, secretly praying for our patients, and otherwise threatening public order.
I took a week off at Christmastime, so my wife and I could fortify ourselves for the winter with a week in the tropics. One evening, I went down to the lobby of our parador (inn) in a tiny village on the edge of the Caribbean to get online, and I learned that New Jersey was threatened by an imminent winter storm that would dump two feet of snow on my home town. I began worrying about our house, and how my sister would be faced with all that snow as she tended our cats, and how it would freeze solid in the driveway before we got home to deal with it.
The next morning, as snow fell on New Jersey, my cell phone buzzed with a text message. It was from Lindsay, and said something like, “Ha ha you got a great crew, don’t worry about anything, jeanne and i gonna shovel ur driveway.” They did, and Jeanne’s kids helped also.
On January 19, while going to an ambulance call, I slipped on black ice, fell, and smashed the hell out of my right wrist, thus beginning the medical leave from the ambulance corps that continues even today. (I think the doctor will let me go back in two weeks.) It has been a heck of a snowy winter in these parts, and every time it snowed, Lindsay and/or Jeanne and her family have come over to shovel.
While I have been on leave, Lindsay finished her EMT training, passed her certification test, and became a full member of the ambulance corps. She and Jeanne ride together on Tuesdays, and the three of us meet at Dunkin Donuts on Tuesday mornings. It is one of the busiest places in town, and a parade of people stop at our table to say “Hi” to Lindsay and smile; young people she went to school with, the mothers of people she knows, a teacher from the high school, the pediatrician whose office is around the corner. One after another, all of them full of joy.
Yesterday, as we sat in DD, we saw Dominick, a senior member of the ambulance corps, crossing the parking lot, mail from the corp’s post office box under his arm. Lindsay jumped up, and ran out the door, calling, “Hey, Dom!” He joined us at our table, sitting down next to Lindsay, looking like a happy grampa.
Lindsay told us about how she had tried to start a summer camp for autistic kids in town, because the place she had worked at had become too expensive for many families and had become too much like school to really be fun for the kids. Her efforts had come to naught, so she wanted to build an evening recreation program for autistic kids, once a week, so their parents can get out. She suggested that the ambulance members hold a dinner for the ambulance auxiliary (who raise money to support the corps) and cook and serve them dinner to show our appreciation. She also wanted to start a program to care for the homes and pets of old people we take to the hospital, while they are away from home.
Sitting with Lindsay was like being with a big Roman candle, shooting off flames and sparks of love and compassion in every direction.
After Dom left, Lindsay talked to us about how she has lost her direction in life, and told us that if she isn’t accepted into a paramedic training program, she’s going to join the National Guard, because she’s got to do something, and it will help her get a police job. She told us that she’s a terrible person.
Jeanne and I told her that God gave her a special heart, huge and overflowing with love; that that means God has a special role for her to play, a mission for her to accomplish, and she can only succeed by loving – and let the doing flow from that. We warned her that being a soldier or a cop could very well bury her gift under a pile of attitude, and leave the world a poorer place. We told her she should look at the band she wears on her wrist and ask herself, What would Jesus do? – Or, more to the point, What does Jesus want me to do? then wait in stillness and silence until she knows in her full and overflowing heart where her path lies, or just knows what the next step is.
And I told Lindsay that I would like to write about her, so she could see herself as others do, and she said that would be alright. So, you see, this was written just for Lindsay, and anyone else who is confused, and finds their self wondering just what they should do in life with nothing to their name but a kind and loving heart.