A nugget of Big Medicine for your consideration. #91 Christmas Jew
Long before the Brunelle Family introduced me to the joys of celebrating Christmas in the company of family at the foot of a beautifully decorated tree, I was a Christmas Jew.
For on Christmas eve ‘tis the moment when one becomes truly aware of the real number of Jewish paramedics in any given EMS system as they file into station for what might be one of only a very few shifts they pull in the course of a year.
They are the religious mutual aid team. The part-time paramedics whose certification continuation is always a matter of cost-benefit debate right up until the moment their names appear on the Christmas Eve roster. They volunteer to work on Christmas so their Christian brothers and sisters can spend time with their families. They are entrusted with the keys to the city as they respond to emergency calls and hold hands with the sad, the lonely and the destitute.
As a Christmas Jew, I wandered the snow-wrapped streets in my ambulance looking for the tell-tale signs of Santa’s passage – the lights on at pre-dawn hours and little ones excitedly waving out frosted livingroom windows at our truck.
I’ve rolled on calls to seniors residences expecting heartbreak only to be welcomed as prodigal sons returning. “Before you take Mildred to the hospital, you simply must have a spot of tea and a piece of cake.”
I’ve watched in awe as a senior police commander pulled up alongside our rig and handing over a large box of catered takeout food said, “You’re the Jew Crew right? This is from everyone down at the station. Thanks much for your service tonight.”
And I’ve been flagged down in front of a church by a priest who waved us inside while telling us we wouldn’t need any of our emergency gear. When we got inside, the entire congregation stood and applauded quietly as the priest explained, “These are our Jewish friends from the EMS station up the road. I’ve invited them to break bread with us.” I still smile when I remember calling that one in on the radio.
There is something almost magical about being on the streets as Christmas Eve ends and Christmas Day begins. There’s a voice on the air and it’s Dispatch however the tone is more akin to a Hallmark ad than to yet another emergency run. “Merry Christmas” or “Joyeux Noel” or both without the need to add the time, answered in turn by every rig on the air at that moment.
Back at the station there were always trays of food from the neighbours and cakes, cookies and all manner of sweet things from our colleagues.
The next time our daughters ask me if I celebrated Christmas before I met Mommy, I’ll have to tell them what it was like being a Christmas Jew for EMS.
Be well. Practice big medicine.