Acts 4:36-7; 9-22, 26-7
I John 4:7-8
The Rev. Tom Herbek
June 24, 2018
We have no idea how Bradley and Preston, the twins being baptized today, will impact this world, but they will make a difference, and, to some people, their lives will make an extraordinary difference. We must all remember that our lives make a difference. I have a coffee cup in my office and on it are written some words from Dr. Seuss: “To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”
One person who made a huge difference was a man named Barnabas. Barnabas was called “Son of Encouragement” by the disciples, because he had this amazing way of encouraging people to live life. He took chances where others were not ready to do so. He looked at everything as an opportunity to encourage those around him. This is the man who sold a piece of real estate and gave the proceeds to the early Christian community to take care of the orphans and the widows, people who were in desperate need, with no way to support themselves. Barnabas was the only one willing to work with the turncoat Paul, who had been a persecutor of Christians before his miraculous turn-around. Many in the early church thought that Paul’s turnaround was a little too miraculous. They thought he was a spy and they did not trust Paul. But Barnabas took Paul on as a companion, and they went to Antioch.
In our own way, we each may have opportunities to reach out, to make a difference, to encourage life. As a young medical intern, fresh out of medical school, Dr. Rachel Remen experienced such a moment:
At ten o’clock on a very quiet night in the emergency room, a distraught father rushed through the doors carrying his unconscious infant son in his arms and shouting for help. Within seconds the child was the center of an intensive team effort. At the time, I was an intern, and as three more senior and experienced resident physicians had been available to deal with this crisis, I was in the room mostly as a witness.
We had barely gotten all our monitors and IV lines in place when someone shouted that we were losing him, and all eyes swung to the EKG monitor. The baby was in ventricular tachycardia. In seconds, it became ventricular fibrillation, the most dangerous of the heart arrhythmias. Untreated, death occurs in minutes.
We had run out of time. The electrolytes and fluids pouring into the tiny veins would not be fast enough to reverse the chaotic electrical activity of the baby’s heart. As one, the team turned to the pediatric defibrillator, two paddles attached to a machine capable of delivering an electric shock to the heart. It was our only hope of restoring a normal heartbeat.
The most senior resident stepped toward the table and placed the paddles, one behind the baby’s back and the other almost completely covering the little chest. Holding the paddle handles he shouted “Back!” and everyone stepped away from the table to avoid being shocked. He pressed the button and delivered the first shock. We all looked toward the EKG monitor.
It showed a total cardiac arrest. “Again,” he said, and we all stepped back. Over the next few minutes, he shocked the baby four times without a response. The EKG was flat. The baby’s heart had stopped.
He flung the paddles to the floor. Quickly he ordered epinephrine injected directly through the chest into the baby’s heart. There was still no response. He turned and nodded to the other two residents, both men. “Time to talk to the parents,” he told them, and without another word all three left the treatment room.
After the intensity of moments before, the room suddenly went very still. It was a room full of women, two nurses and myself. Silently we looked at the tiny body lying on the table. He was a beautiful little boy, perfect in every way. Something in me called out to him, much as you might call a child in from playing to dinner. He had been well just yesterday. Less than five minutes ago his heart had been beating. It seemed impossible that he could not come back. I was too young a doctor and too inexperienced to know that after four attempts at defibrillation, no one comes back.
Without thinking, I stooped and picked up the paddles from the floor. “Just one more time,” I said to the nurses. Placing the paddles as I had seen the senior resident do, I waited for them to step back. As before, the tiny body lifted slightly from the table and fell back. In the silence that followed, I heard one of the nurses draw in her breath. “Look!” she whispered, and pointed to the EKG. The flat line was now the classic tracing of a normal heartbeat pulsing steadily across the screen. I let go of the paddles and picked up the baby in my arms, IV lines, EKG leads and all.
The relief in the room was indescribable. We crowded together, all of us talking at once, and we all had tears in our eyes. Then the door opened. In the doorway stood a distraught woman. Just behind her was a man, his face white and drawn, holding her by the shoulders. Behind them both stood the senior resident. Dismayed, I realized that he must have just given the baby’s parents the bad news. Suddenly the baby began to cry.
As the woman stumbled toward us, one of the nurses quickly took the IV bottles from their stand and carried them aloft. The other began to push the EKG machine. Halfway across the room we met her and put her son back into her arms.
There are times when by grace you may be allowed to directly participate in events that make a profound difference. Times when, despite the odds, the limitations of science, or the pressure of time, things happen anyway. Such moments evoke a sense of gratitude in all who participate as if, even as we act, we are only witnesses to life fulfilling its dream of itself and realizing its own mysterious purposes.
–My Grandfather’s Blessings
Each of us have made a difference, and we will continue to make a difference in the lives of the people around us. And Bradley and Preston will also. They have already shown the grit and determination as premies to survive. As I told Quinn and Tom, as a premie myself, I know this:
we premies are tough. And that grit and determination of these two boys will help them to make a difference in their own unique way. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Whether you liked Jimmy Carter as President or not, I imagine we can all agree that, ever since he left office, he has done all that he can to try to make a positive difference in the lives of people. When asked why he did this so tirelessly and for so many years since leaving office, he responded: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have, to try to make a difference.”
We don’t know what our possibilities are until we try. So let us celebrate the journey, the specialness, the possibilities in these boys today, but also the unmet, undiscovered possibilities within each of us, as well. Because of this baptism that we are privileged to be a part of this day, may we also discover the specialness within each of us, and the reality that one person can truly make a difference!