Be Aware – Take Note

Be Aware – Take Note

Pentecost 7


December 2013 started like any other day.  It was cold in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis – St. Paul and, like the thousands of commuters who travel into the cities to work, one man was stuck in traffic.  He reached his right arm forward and realized he couldn’t move it.  He pulled over onto the shoulder of the road in the shadow of a billboard directly ahead.  The electronic billboard was advertising F.A.S.T. – the warning signs of a stroke.


They really did not consider themselves part of the “In Crowd”.  After all, they were adults in the prime of their lives.  Surely they were above such things.  They did have their own “group” they spent time with and occasionally they allowed others to participate because… well, they were such a fun group.  This group had met at church and so, when they walked into the weekly service, they each would look to see who was present and give a little wave.  It was what group members did.  They always knew who was present and their group often would go out for a meal afterwards.


The young twenty-something young man was proud to be a transit cop, an officer working in the subway system of New York City.  The transit authority police were an often forgotten part of the city’s transit system until the World Trade Towers attacks when many rushed in to help those trying to escape the burning and collapsing buildings.  A week ago the twenty-seven –year-old male officer was alerted by transit workers that there was an issue with a rider on one of the trains in Long Island.  The officer arrived on the scene at the next stop and recognized that the man’s position was not the usually for a drunk and disorderly passenger and the man was having difficulty breathing.  Using a medical injection the department began issuing to its officers last year, he injected the man with an opiate antidote, even though the man vehemently denied having taken drugs once he regained consciousness in the ambulance.


The order would come in like clockwork online.  Sometimes the man would order a pizza but he would also change it up, ordering a salad or the chicken.  Within a week he would place four or five orders right after midnight.  The crew at a Denver pizza restaurant figured the man worked second shift somewhere.  The driver would deliver the order and return to the store pasing along the greetings he’s receive from the regular customer.  Three weeks ago, however, the store’s assistant manager realized they had not heard from their midnight customer in ten days.  Knowing that most employees elected to take their vacations in the summer she began to worry.  Finally the crew at the restaurant decided the delivery driver should go to the man’s address and just make sure everything was okay.


We often encourage our family members to take note of their surroundings.  A recent incident in Canada involving a woman blindly trusting her GPS system resulted in her driving into a canal and her car becoming submerged.  It is also important, though to take note of those around you and not just for preventing a mugging or wrong turn.  Sometimes being aware and taking note can save a life.


The man driving to work two years ago in the Twin Cities sat as traffic passed him by on the shoulder of the road and wondered what had happened to his right arm.  The electronic billboard continued to flash its message right in front of him, educating all on the warning signs of a stroke.  It explained the F.A.S.T. acronym – F for facial drooping, A for arm weakness, S for speech difficulty, and T for time to call assistance.  The man realized he had all those warning signs or at least two and maybe three so he did what the billboard advised.  He called for assistance.  Two years later he is still on his road to recovery from the stroke he had experienced that morning on his commute to work.  His awareness and quick response had saved his life.


The “group” that felt they were too old to be proud of being the “In Crowd” at their place of worship did indeed notice who was there and who was not.  They often discussed it at their meal afterwards.  One of the group realized that the woman who always smiled but seemed shy had not been at any of the meetings for several weeks.    She would occasionally be invited to be part of the group but most in their little gathering agreed that she really did not fit in.  Still, this one member couldn’t help but wonder about the woman’s absence.  She decided to call and invite her for coffee.  It was a phone call that, unbeknownst to the person making the call, interrupted a suicide attempt.  Sometimes all it takes is someone having the courage to make a new friend.  Three years later the shy woman was still not really part of the group; that is, until she donated blood marrow to the grandchild of a group member.  The woman knew that community was not about any one group.  Community is about the family of man.


The man overdosing on the New York Subway System vehemently denied having taken any drugs.  After all, doing so was illegal and who wanted to tell a police officer that had committed a crime?  The quick-thinking transit cop, though, knew the warning signs and more importantly, the typical signs of drunkenness.  His quick thinking in administering the antidote to a drug overdose had saved the man’s life and even though the individual never said thank you, he took pride in having performed his job to the best of his ability.


“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  We would all do well by taking note of Mother Teresa’s words.  Every day we pass the same people.  Take a few seconds and notice them – really notice them.  We each have the power to make a difference in someone’s life as well as our own.  We all have the chance to make an ordinary day extraordinary by doing just that.



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