The Real World
by Jolene Eicher
It started with a desire to help people, a love of things unusual, and it was sprinkled with the influence of some dear friends. Going into it I knew that in this part of the country, it was a rough profession, with swearing and crude jokes being a normal, but I was armored with prayer and my parents’ blessing, so I jumped in feet first.
The first ten weeks were fairly “clean”, as I trained to receive the Basic EMT certification which was needed to start the two year long Paramedic course. My first real immersion into the rough culture of EMS (Emergency medical services), was a few weeks into class.
We were required to have ten patient contacts, meaning I had to be on an ambulance as we would respond to ten different people with emergencies. One of the squads I rode with was in the large, rundown city of Petersburg. The best example of my few days there was during a good-natured conversation between paramedics about all of the bad language I was hearing. When I didn’t respond, one of the paramedics jokingly said “She probably goes home and does confession.” I laughed and with a hint of sarcasm said, “Yup!” This was not far from the truth. Because of the few times I had spent in this environment I had desperately prayed out loud for protection and cleansing of my mind as soon as I got into my car. The R-rated movies we avoid are a good example of how bad the atmosphere can get.
During my two years in school I saw the lives, speech, and beliefs of what we are without Christ. Seeing first hand what the choice of sin does caused me to want to fully draw a line between that and my own life and then not go near it. There was a hunger in my heart to go “full-blown conservative.” A few times I had to ask my parents if our lives and the way we live was actually real. Just seeing the stark contrast between the relative peace and simplicity of our family and church and the haphazard chaos of most of the world made me question if we were the ones living in a dream and a falsehood. I would hear the phrase “you have to face the real world”, which troubled my heart, because if that chaos is the “real” world, then what are we as Christians living?
The beautiful and wonderful thing is that we as followers of Christ are on the path of God, the real path. We are doing our best, with Jesus guiding and keeping us, to live the “real” world God intended. The chaos that surrounds us is a way that God never intended. It is the broken way.
Here is a common scene we face on the job: A small rundown home with windows blacked out and minimal to no light inside. The smell of stale cigarettes, rotting food, old grease, unwashed bodies, and old urine/feces hits you at the door. Clothes, trash, and all other manner of things cover every inch of the house, and cockroaches scamper away. We try to avoid holes and soft spots in the floor for fear of falling in, while the family, with dead stares, are sitting on the couch watching TV or using their phones. They are numb to the emergency going on and show no signs of concern. Half the time they never look in our direction. The crazy thing is that this house and most of the others we enter are right off Main Street downtown.
Bitterness and anger have had their moment in my heart, and at times I have lost sight of hope. It is difficult to witness every day the level of uncaring and indifference that the sinful flesh can reach, and to not have the caring, tender heart become calloused and turn indifferent itself.
God has been my constant safety. His guiding hand is evident in every step of my journey (which I normally don’t see until I am through the storm and look back), and He has blessed me with a family and church family where I am grounded, can reset my mind, feel safe, at peace, and see living examples of what “real” life is meant to be in Christ. I am sure that without those, I would have been caught up in this world a long time ago.
Jolene lives in the middle of Virginia with her parents and local wildlife. She is following her dream of starting a sewing and fabric shop (facebook.com/pinkpuffinfabrics) along with working full time at her local rescue squad. She loves to relax to the point of having perfected the art (verging on the sin of laziness); and her many interests include sewing, singing, and sipping coffee. She is surrounded by a good family and church community that loves and follows Jesus.