A plea for help, injuries too extensive, our valiant efforts, but the bewildering reality that despite the fact that we are here to save people, death is absolute. And there I sat, staring into the face of the greatest tragedy of my career to date. A lifeless child and grief beyond any I knew possible. Parents clutching one another in despair . . . what do we all do now?
No stranger to sadness, I have felt weight of hopelessness before. I recognize it mainly in the fact that I can muster no genuine smile. Somehow anguish has direct control of the facial muscles, holding them in what seems like eternal and un-battleable numbness. Would I ever look out of more than vacant eyes again?
Which is why I owe abundant thanks to a red-headed high school kid who knows nothing about vegetables. She possessed a shy, apologetic demeanor yet a kind smile, and I bet she would have been someone I would have been friends with in high school. Rolling up with my shopping cart, I stared at her with empty eyes and flat affect while answering her "how are you this evening?" with a mumbled "fine". Ironically, even when life appeared to be over, I still needed to go grocery shopping.
The shy checker started attempting to ring up a vegetable. After turning it over and over in her hands a few times and scrolling through her computer, she said, "Um . . . what is this?"
"I think it's turnip."
She rung up the turnip and grabbed the next vegetable. Same scenario. "And these?"
After two more vegetables, it started to get a little comical. A beet. A zucchini. Roma tomatoes. Jalapeno. You mean to tell me you really don't know what any of this stuff is? Who doesn't know what a zucchini is? And then I felt it. . . . A genuine smile, and I glimpsed hope.
Hope . . . Possibly one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. She was just being herself, and she changed my life that day. Who knows how many people we quietly impact in this way?