Sirens

My office sits right across the street from a local fire and ambulance station in our town.  I always feel I have to apologize when one of my spiritual direction clients about jumps out of her seat as we sit in a quiet moment of prayer and suddenly a siren goes off.

But when I am here at the office alone, I appreciate the connection to the world.

When I was first starting to learn about spiritual practices in seminary, a friend told me about all the little prayers she says as things happen around her through the day.  A prayer when she opens her eyes.  A prayer of thanksgiving for coffee.  She also prays for the unexpected things that happen.  A call out to St. Anthony when she loses her keys.  A cry out to St. Christopher when she’s cut off in traffic (that one may be less of a prayer).

The prayer that stuck with me as my own small spiritual practice of connection is the prayer she would say whenever she saw an ambulance.  She would pray for the person inside in need of healing.  She would pray for the driver and the EMTs.  She would pray for the person’s family.  She would ask God for protection for herself and her family.

She may have a rote prayer that she was taught to say every time.  I don’t have that, so I try to take a moment to touch base mindfully with God whenever I see an ambulance or hear that siren go off.  What prayers need to be lifted up for a sick or hurting person somewhere in my neighborhood?  Are there family members worried and bereft in this moment.  Are the professionals ready for whatever they will find or have found at the crash site or the home or the store or the crime scene?  My cousin and her husband met working as EMTs in a rough part of Pittsburgh many years ago and the stories they tell are awful and awe-full all at the same time.  Many prayers are needed every time an ambulance or any emergency vehicle turns on that siren.

I am one of those drivers who pull off the road to get out of the way, even if there is a lane cleared.  I have nowhere to be that is as important as that ambulance or fire truck or police car.  But I have to be reminded of that.  Because usually right before I hear the siren I am thinking that my destination and my life is the most important destination and life in the whole world.  A siren offers new perspective on that.

I also try to remember to say a prayer of gratitude.  My complicated life is not nearly as complex as that of the people involved with that ambulance.  The person may be barely clinging to life or in pretty good shape considering, but just by virtue of my not being in an ambulance, I’m already healthier.  His friends and family have a whole world of new concerns now – everything from will he live or die to if he lives how will we afford this?

I am grateful for a life that so far has had few ambulances in it.  And I am grateful that there are emergency vehicles and people willing to drive and fly to the rescue of those who are in need.

Some day that ambulance may be for me, and I hope there will be someone who says a prayer when they hear the siren.

How do you react when you hear a siren?  Have you ever been in an ambulance?  How does it feel to know there may be someone praying for you that you don’t even know?  Is there anything during the course of a day that makes you stop and pray?  Do you have a daily prayer routine as you get up, eat, work and make your way through the world?

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