Last night I watched Scrooged, the Bill Murray version of a Christmas Carrol, where Murray is the bah humbug head of a big TV network. Bill Murray is a very funny actor, and Scrooged always chokes me up at the end, when the little mute kid speaks for the first time and says “God Bless us Everyone.” Then they all start singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” with Murray singing like his old Saturday Night Live lounge singer character.
Sometimes I feel like I am a Scrooge. I am always working on Christmas. My brother invited me to go to New Jersey and have Christmas with him and his family this year. Of course I couldn’t go — I had to work.
What kind of a bah humbug am I? Working on Christmas all the time. But working in EMS on Christmas is different than working a regular job on Christmas. I have always been proud that when my name is written in the book, I can be counted on to be there. It is not like we can just close up shop on Christmas. Christmas falls on my day to work, I work it. I like being reliable.
I read an interesting article — “Will Words Fail Her?” — about a young Chinese fiction writer, Yiyun Li, who wrote a great collection of short stories called A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. One of her teachers, James Alan McPherson, who was also a teacher of mine many years ago, was quoted in the article as saying in American fiction, we have lost the community voice. It is all about the self, but that community voice still exists in writers in Japan and China, writers like Li.
In this job over time you can lose yourself. You become a part of the community, the blanket of watchfulless over the cities and towns that you cover, and that becomes more important than who you are as an individual. People say it is bad to lose yourself in your job, and I don’t disagree — you need balance in your own life. But at the same time, I don’t think it is neccessarily all bad.
In Scrooged, Murray’s ex-boss, who comes back as the dead Jacob Marley, says his work, his life should have been that of mankind, not TV ratings. While I am not knocking the fact that today I am getting paid double time and a half holiday pay, I think you can make the arguement that our work in EMS is not the work of material advancement, but the work of mankind. There is a certain privledge in looking out over the community, in being its protector, particularly on Christmas Day.
There are some sacrifices in this job, and I am not advocating putting it before everything else in your life, but if you find meaning, even redemption in your work, that is no small thing.