You never know what you are going to find around the next corner…
Tonight I changed my routine a bit. Because my regular yoga teacher is out of town, I decided to check out a new yoga class, which on this Friday night put me in a different neighborhood, at a different time than my usual routine.
I walked through San Francisco’s beautiful Panhandle Park, happily listening to my Pandora. Enjoying the shadows of the late afternoon sun, I watched joggers and bikers breeze by, men playing basketball on the nearby court, and dog-lovers throwing tennis balls to their “Fido.” It was a lovely, typical Friday evening in San Francisco.
I turned the corner onto Stanyan Street to head towards the yoga studio, and as I approached the Whole Foods Market, suddenly I heard loud sirens and saw several police cars and motorcycles descend upon the market. I stopped to see what was going on. From where I stood I could see two men on the ground, one flailing around and yelling, the other silent and motionless. I chatted with other onlookers, all of us trying to piece together what had happened. Apparently someone had been caught shop-lifting (the young guy who was pinned down and yelling) and there was some kind of pursuit by the security guard, which somehow rendered the security guard lying lifeless on the pavement.
Next, a fire truck roared up, and one of the police officers ran over to the fire department medic that jumped out of the truck. Listening intently to what the officers said, I overheard the police officer say (I believe about the security guard), “He’s turning blue.”
It occurred to me that his airway was obstructed and that he was likely in shock or had perhaps suffered a heart attack. The medic ran over to the security guard on the ground, and then I and my fellow onlookers watched in sobering awe as the medic began CPR on the man. We could see his chest move up and down as the medic performed repeated chest compressions. This went on for several minutes.
In a split second, I reflected on my previous training class with the San Francisco Fire Department for Emergency Rescue training, and on the CPR certification that I had received. As I thought of all of those trial runs I had performed on the dummy, my mind raced to remember the correct CPR ratio: 2 breaths to every 30 chest compressions. It was one thing to be performing CPR on a practice dummy in the safety of a class, but here I was witnessing the real deal, and I thought to myself, “If I had to do it for real, would I be able? Would I remember what I needed to do?” I was struck by the reality that this man’s fragile human life lay in the hands of another human being, a complete stranger. If ever there was a sobering moment, this was it.
I couldn’t help but think about the absolute fragility of life; of how delicate our organic bodies are, and of how many possible threats and dangers exist in every day life. At any moment, any one of us could get hit by a bus, have a dangerous fall down the stairs, suffer from an unexpected stroke or heart attack, or even (when you live in a major city like San Francisco) be hit by a stray bullet. And in that moment it occurred to me how frivolous and irrelevant are so many of our trivial human worries: how pointless it is for us to worry about that guy or girl who rejected us; to be upset about the bad haircut; to be stressed about our jerk boss or the promotion we didn’t get.
In the grand scheme of things, and of our place in the Universe, these daily trials and tribulations are so unimportant and are not worth wasting our energy over. Instead we should be focusing on living in the present moment, on the positivity and beauty that exists in our lives and around us at any given moment. We should take the time to tell our friends and family how much we love them. Instead of worrying and stressing, we should be living… and we should be loving.
I was jerked out of my deep thoughts as I saw the medic pull out the paddles with which to shock the man. I knew from my own CPR course that the amount of time he had spent doing chest compressions was a worrying sign. I held my breath as I watched him apply the paddles and shock the man. I was all too aware of the gravity of the situation I just happened to be observing.
To the relief of all those of us who watched, suddenly we saw them putting an IV drip into the man’s arm. I then overheard one of the officers saying that the man had a pulse. I let out a sigh of relief and then watched in awe and admiration as they lifted the man onto a stretcher and loaded him into the back of the ambulance. I had just witnessed this man’s life being saved, right before my eyes…just on a random Friday night, on my random walk to yoga.
With great respect and appreciation, I thought about all of our brave first responders who save so many lives, every day. After the recent anniversary of September 11th, followed by a sad week of watching four of our American citizens tragically lose their lives in Libya, and now after witnessing this incredible scene of this fireman saving the life of a complete stranger, I was reminded that there are heroes all around us and among us. And whether they are saving lives, or sacrificing their lives, they are a very important reminder that life is to be celebrated.
So the next time you are out and about, whether on your usual routine, or perhaps mixing up your routine as I did mine, open your eyes. Look around you. Look at all of the beauty and life that is teeming around you, at every moment, or perhaps just around the next corner. Remember that life is a gift, that it is precious…and remember that life should be celebrated, always.