It has been around three years since I last visited the Emergency Red Cross Center in Choueifat, Lebanon. I volunteered there for more than two years. Many of the nights I slept there where torturous. I was less than 18 years old, and I managed to cope up with school exams and sophomore stress, and volunteering in the emergency sector of the Lebanese Red Cross. I’ve seen people in their worst state, crying for help that we couldn’t always provide. Injury and death became mundane. At some of the nights, we were even eagerly waiting for an emergency call – for someone to fall into a misfortune, a car accident, a heart attack, or any other health problem that we might be needed to transfer him to the nearby hospital.
Three years of pre-med, and approximately a year in medicine has suppressed that inner motivation I had to help. As if I am drunk or high on drugs, I have lost my sense of responsibility to contribute back to society, and the humanity that was in me wasn’t a sufficient motivator to give more of my time to charity.
Last Sunday, I went back to the center. It was a beautiful visit – many of my friends are still volunteering there. My locker wasn’t there, and my bed is occupied. I was nostalgic – I missed this place, even though I had one of my worst days here. That is the corner where I cried when the first patient we transferred died on the road, and that is the room where I had been blamed for my first ‘medical’ error: when I didn’t notice a patient’s bleeding crotch since I didn’t fully complete the physical check-up …
I chatted with my friends there for a while, and as I was preparing to leave, the alarm bell rang: An emergency! Directly, the center turned into a bee hive – everyone is position, ready, and set to go. In less than thirty seconds, the ambulance was on its way. In these few seconds, you can’t but notice the volunteers’ passion and impulse. They left everything aside and ran to help. With no compensation, other than the patients’ smile and thankful words, they volunteered their time to be there in a stranger’s life when he/she was in their worst state. A wave of emotions passed through my gut. I was suddenly energized again. I appreciated how satisfying it is to help without expecting a return, to sacrifice what you need for others who need it more, and to make a change.
The next week, I saw a facebook add to volunteer for Foodblessed, an NGO that collects food from restaurants around Beirut area to feed the hungry and the homeless. Remembering what I had experienced in the Emergency Center, I directly registered. I’m glad I restored my sense of contribution and self-worth.
The Foodblessed experience was yet another piece evidence that when getting out of your comfort zone, real life lessons are learnt.