Who we truly are is often showcased by how we handle out of the ordinary situations. Occasionally life presents us with events that are so random that we simply react rather than taking time to think. Sometimes these situations are extreme even life threatening but sometimes they are just, funny.
The Red Cross visited my high school on a yearly basis. If I remember right, it was every spring and only Juniors and Seniors were allowed to participate in the blood drive. I joined in both years; partly for altruistic reasons and also because it was an excuse to get out of class. Students that wished to give were taken out of class alphabetically, so each year I had given my donation and was rewarded with orange juice and cookies before first period was even over. However, my second year of participation yielded greater returns than a simple glucose boost.
It was the beginning of fourth hour, just after lunch, and class had already started when Matthew (names have been changed to protect the innocent) walked into the room carrying his lunch. Although our school had an open campus and students were allowed to leave for lunch, we were forbidden from having food in class. Most teachers enforced this rule strictly. As this was a Law class, I was shocked that the teacher didn’t put the kibosh on Matt’s extended lunch post-haste.
Apparently Matt had given blood earlier that day, and it had not gone well. What was normally a 15-20 minute process had taken him over an hour. The nurse had a hard time finding his vein. That, combined with his moderate fear of needles, ended with him nearly passing out and spending what would have been his lunch break breathing into a paper bag. The process must not have been completely finished because Matt wasn’t able to eat more than a few fries before he abruptly stood up and left the room. We could all tell that something wasn’t right because, not only was the teacher in the middle of her lecture, but Matt was the whitest shade of pale I have ever seen. Also, he wasn’t really walking. It looked like he was using all of his effort just to stay upright and leaning forward in hopes that his legs would get him to where he needed to go.
The teacher stopped mid-sentence and turned to me because I was seated the closest to her. “Philip, follow him and see if he is okay.” She poked her head out the door. “He went into the bathroom.”
By the time I got into the bathroom Matt was already down on all fours between the urinals and the stalls. Not really a sanitary place to be crawling around if you ask me. When I walked in he looked up. It seemed more like he was staring through me than at me, with his dilated pupils and and his waking-dead like stare.
“Help me!” he bellowed like a distraught farm animal. He was able to gurgle his plea for help a second time before his arms gave way and he toppled to his side. Momentum kicked in and rolled him to his back. Then he was still.
I jogged back into class and told our teacher that he had passed out. She had already sent another student for help and she ran out of the room to join the cluster of staff headed into the restroom. It was then that my instincts kicked in. Or was it my appetite? I didn’t have to think. I knew what needed to be done. I sat down at Matthew’s desk and finished his burger and fries.
So there you have it. This experience taught me just what I am made of. In the toughest of situations, when leaders panic and loose their cool, when men are dropping like flies to the bathroom floor, and class-room rules are hanging by a single thread, leaving anarchy and food out to waste, I am able to completely shut off my emotions and let my stomach do the thinking.
*Author’s Note – When I was little it was often said, in jest, that we should always finish our meals because, “There are people starving in Japan.” Well, currently that is the case. Maybe they aren’t starving, but they need help. So please take the time to click the link below and give what you can. Thanks.