Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taking part in history

I'm sitting here thinking about all of the crazy people in Washington, D.C. who are there in the name of "history."

I am as interested in history as anyone (it was one of my best subjects in school, look at all of the good it did me!), but I sure wouldn't put myself out that much just to say "I was there."

But actually I did that once—on September 17, 1987, when Pope John Paul II visited the Monterey Peninsula. I am a "cafeteria Catholic" but like many Catholics, felt there was just something special about this Pope. So when the opportunity to volunteer came up, I stepped up and offered my services as an RN, wherever they were needed. All I'd hoped for was a glance of John Paul II.

The Pope offered mass for 50,000 people at Laguna Seca, a world-famous road racing track. I'd hoped to end up there, working in first aid, but I was assigned to the press room at the Carmel Mission Basilica, where John Paul II was holding an audience with 3000 people following the mass. He was to visit Junipero Serra's grave, have lunch onsite at the mission, and then take an afternoon nap before he departed. I was there to attend to the medical needs of the several hundred media types who'd been following the Pope during his U.S. tour. I handed out tylenol and motrin, but I was there because I'd had advanced life support training, and could start medical treatment in case of catastrophic collapse of a media person.

There would be no opportunity to see the Pope. Or so organizers thought.

Somewhere along the line it was decided the Pope would slightly modify his route out of the Mission, and all volunteers were allowed to stand in a plaza area and watch him get into his car and drive off. He looked back at all of us, raised his hand in that way he did, got into the car, and drove around a roundabout, looking at us all of the way, with his hand raised in blessing.

That image is burned into my mind. When John Paul II died in April 2005, I held that image in my head and whenever the sadness was overwhelming, I'd close my eyes and see him, alive, waiving. He went out of his way just to see those of us who chose to serve him that one day.

I would go out of my way for the Pope, even though I disagree with so much of the Catholic church's doctrine. I would never go out of my way for the cult of personality that is our commander-in-chief, starting today.


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