Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sore Feet

Posts are going to be few and far between for a while. Right now there are three big things going on in my life. They are work, school and social life. Blogging may just fall by the wayside a bit.

Once upon a time I was out doing a long cross country ski movement with a group of army guys. We had done a similar movement the day prior, and were still feeling the effects of it. In particular, because of the new boots we were wearing, myself and one other guy had developed blisters. I had a blister the length and breadth of my thumb on the inside of my left ankle, just below the ankle bone. The other guy had a blister about an inch and a half across under the ankle bone on the inside of both ankles.

In addition to the blisters (which really weren't that serious, as blisters go), there was extensive bruising underneath the skin. Any pressure from ankle bone to heel was excruciatingly painful, and inversion of the foot was likewise painful.

As we were moving through the snow he kept falling farther and farther behind until finally I (being the medic) told the NCO in charge, "Hey, his feet are pretty torn up."

The NCOIC replied succinctly, "Faggot!" Just like that he dismissed the whole thing. Keep up. Do not be the slowest guy or else. We won't do anything to you, really. No adverse consequences, no paperwork, no punishment. We'll just ridicule you. Call you a pansy. Make jokes about your girly feet and your week genes.

At first I was irritated. I knew what the movement was doing to his feet. It wasn't damaging them permanently, but it was preventing them from healing. Any granulation tissue that had formed the night before was getting rubbed off with every step. The bandage he had put on wasn't the best and it was forming wrinkles and hot spots which might eventually turn into more blisters. Was it going to break a bone? No. Do nerve damage? Unlikely. Get infected? Probably not.

We were not out on patrol, we were just conducting a ski movement, for the express purpose of learning how to ski cross country and try out the new equipment. No one's life was in danger, there was no mission, no enemy, no legitimate reason why we had to keep going. Why do it? Why not just stop?

But we didn't stop. I rebandaged his feet at the next stop, and we kept going for hours. And he made it. He couldn't break snow, but he didn't fall behind.

Sometimes as a medic, or even as a human being, it seems pretty intuitive. If something is causing your patient pain, you stop doing that thing. But this event reminded me of the fact that my feet were hurting too, but I wasn't quitting. I didn't even want to ask. It reminded me of all the times I had wanted to stop, but would never have asked for it. There were so many times when I would have been half-insulted and half-overjoyed to have been told, "That's it, you've had enough. Sit this one out." On the one hand who are you to tell me when I have had enough? You don't know what I am capable of. On the other hand, I don't want to do this anymore. It hurts. Wouldn't it be amazing to have a legitimate excuse to stop?

But I didn't. I would not be who I am today if someone had had sympathy on me and taken me out when I wanted to be taken out. Instead they left me with two options; keep going or quit. For some reason I kept going. God only knows why. It made me into the person that I am.

When I wanted the NCOIC to let that guy off, I wanted to show him mercy, give him a way out. He wanted a way out. He didn't get one. And he got through it and became stronger.

In a way sore feet are a microcosm of my job. I deal with human sinfulness and evil. If it weren't for them I would have no job. There would be no war. God grant I see the day when there is no war and soldiers are all out of work, but on the other hand, what will we replace war with? The hell of war and the purgatory of training the readies men for war are ugly things, but they can bring out greatness. Without adversity, there is no greatness, it seems. But is there adversity without evil? How would Adam and Eve have acheived greatness?

It is an acedemic question only, because the fact is that there is evil and we have to deal with it. But on the other hand maybe there is something there. The NCOIC's ridicule didn't sit well with me, although I knew what he was doing, and he was right about it. That guy did make it, and it was better that he did. I like the virtue of courage and discipline that makes such men who they are, but I don't like the way it comes through. There should be a way to be tough and courageous without being unsympathetic. That is part of my lifelong pursuit of the Way of the Warrior; finding that way.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Ryan,
    I hope all is well (esp. with work, school and social:)). A really great post, and I am commenting because it hits very close to home today.

    I have a story that fits with your "sore feet," though no blisters. I was teaching Grade 7 on Monday, but my Dad was late for work so he had to drop me off at a distance from the school and I would walk the rest of the way. I had an hour and thought that I had about a 30 min. walk, a few km. It took me about ten min. to figure out that not only was I much further away than I expected (it was actually seven km), it also started to rain. I spent the next hour alternating running and walking to make it to school on time, and all that time I was praying: God please send someone to pick me up, or even just a Guardian angel. Well, He sent me a Guardian angel, a elderly man stopped to give me an umbrella, and I made it to school on time... though no ride was forthcoming. I will admit that I spent much of the walk begging God to get me there on time, and asking why???

    You make a really wonderful point, these struggles shape us into the people that we are. We may not want to go through them, I definately wasn't keen, but they stretch us when we would rather stay comfortable. I was also able to offer it up for the class I was teaching, which was probably a good thing because there were a few challenges throughout the day:).

    Sorry that that was a long point! To look at your question, I think that there is adversity without evil..even though you are right that it is an academic question. Don't you think that the 'tree of knowledge' was a bit of adversity? Challenges do cause us to grow when we approach them the right way, but they can also break us when we rely only on our own strength. I also agree there is a way to be tough and courageous without unsympathy, I am a teacher... I have to be tough sometimes, but that does not mean that I am unsympathetic to the children I am teaching for they are all precious gifts from God despite their faults.

    God bless,