I was in the middle of a wonderful meeting about Empty Bowl, a National Hunger Awareness project that benefits the center every year when I heard a loud voice cry out and then everyone was calling my name and yelling, "We have an emergency!" In less than a blink, the world was upside down.
I ran out of my office and into the lobby where many voices were telling me that someone had fallen outside our door and was bleeding. When I got to her, someone had already pressed a cloth to her head to stay the bleeding. She was a frail little thing lying there with her knees drawn up and blood on her lips and teeth, her impossibly tiny wrist held at an angle that made my hands tremble. Her eyes were pale blue, apologetic, and meek. She looked to be in her 80s.
She had tripped over the parking log as she came to make a donation; her tidy red bag full of clothes lay where it had fallen. The heat was oppressive but we didn't dare move her. I ran inside and dialled 911, then we grabbed an umbrella and shaded her from as much of the sun's full force as we could. She seemed more embarrassed than anything, saying she just needed a minute to catch her breath before she got up. I could see the network of her circulatory system beneath skin that was as thin and white as tracing paper.
We are only a block from the fire dept., but it still seemed forever until they arrived and her neck and body were secured and strapped to a board. She looked bird-light; I think she might have floated to the ambulance had the straps not held her fast. It wasn't until they began taping her down and isolating movement that her countenance began to falter. I watched that dear little thing absolutely crumple inwardly as she tried to remain brave. My heart broke at the sight of her newly realized pains and the fear so readable now on her face.
One of my staff muttered something about needing to fill in a garden area to prevent future falls and I had to crash back to earth and tell her that now was not the time, we'd discuss it later. I hate that I have to react that way, defensive and pro-active in light of possible litigation. I wanted to stay connected to the lady completely, but the truth had emerged. It might become war. Who wants to think that way as they look at a dear little lady broken in the course of a selfless act? Not I.
I gathered her keys and glasses and handed them to the only officer wearing shorts. I don't know; he just seemed friendlier and more approachable to me with his knees exposed and the terrible dark socks. I squeezed her good hand softly and said all the right things and she smiled at me, the sweet little broken-winged sparrow. And I meant them as I mentally ticked off my To Do list: Call HR Chair; call insurance company; gather witness information; write up incident report; notify attorney; address the blood on the paving; clean the detritus from the medics.
I hope that she is all right.
I hope that she doesn't sue us.
I hope that my heart is not a spoiled and bruised thing,
Compromised in ways that are essentially uncharitable
Despite the sign I hang on my front door for the world to see.