Today I was thinking of the first call I ever went on after enlisting as a fire chaplain. The incident was about two cars that had gone off the road due to a collision at an intersection. Some people were injured, others traumatised, pets were confused. The call did not really require a chaplain but I was on shift that day and anxious to experience some action. I eagerly accepted the lieutenant’s invitation and climbed in the back seat of the rig alongside the EMT’s.
The lieutenant instructed me to just stick by him, which I did. We arrived. The EMT’s took care of the people; I was assigned ‘pet duty’. I really felt I played a part when the Lieutenant asked me to get him a big duffle bag that contained some equipment he needed.
I had imagined that the people receiving the care would be full of gratitude for those volunteers who made it their life’s priority to help them out of a rather bad situation. I was expecting the cooperation, the ‘thank you so much’, and all the signs that denote a grateful attitude but Instead, from one side of the accident I saw suspicion towards the medics, and from the other side a resentment at what they felt was the invasion of their privacy and independence.
While I understood the trauma these people faced being suddenly thrown in a life and death situation that was going to completely alter their immediate and maybe long term plans, I still felt that they could have done something to get themselves under control and cooperate a bit more with the people who were trying to help them.
Today as I thought back at that situation, I looked at it from a different angle. I felt a sentiment of praise for the Lieutenant and the EMT’s who gave themselves to their rescue task with sensibility, care, and whole-heartedness and without any concern for acknowledgment or gratitude. This reminded me of a saying I heard once that proclaims that ‘true kindness is one that is done without ulterior motives’. Sometimes acknowledgement and gratitude can act as an incentive for doing a good deed. It can even act as the ulterior motive of an emotional personal reward . We like the warm fuzzy feeling inside. But it is more difficult to do good deeds when the recipients are non-cooperative, unthankful, or even suspicious. I believe that in the eyes of God, these latter situations are the most meritorious. Could it be that it was part of what Jesus meant when He said, "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? .... And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? ... And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? … do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luk 6:32-35 ESV)
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