OPINION – My faith in humanity has been faltering lately. It’s not the innumerable global military conflicts that have challenged my optimism. It’s the homegrown cattiness and malignant hostility that grows to dominate nearly every online discussion.
There is no tragedy too big or too small to keep the truly sadistic from indulging their penchant for tormenting people they’ve never even met.
Sometimes it seems as though those who haven’t been overcome by antipathy have instead given themselves up to detachment so as to not make themselves a target. Indifference is what enables this darkness to spread.
It’s at times like this that I need to be reminded of the decency and goodness that still exists in others. I got just such a reminder this past weekend while accompanying my Boy Scouts on their High Adventure outing at Panguitch Lake.
We tend to pack a lot of adventure into a very compressed time frame on these campouts. We found time to boat, fish, hike, cook dutch oven dinners and go caving. On Friday afternoon, we mounted up for a horseback ride into the hills near the lake.
As we left the lodge area and prepared to cross Highway 143 to start up the trail, my horse suddenly slipped or spooked and threw me with no warning. I landed directly on the small of my back, right in the middle of the highway.
What had been a carefree outing just moments before changed in an eye blink.
I was stunned by the impact and was flopping around in pain like a fish out of water. As luck would have it, the rider directly behind me was a medical doctor who was instantly at my side. Dr. Tom Marshall had seen me hit the pavement and immediately told me not to move.
He was concerned from the way I’d hit that there was potential for a spinal injury. Had it been anyone but Marshall telling me to stay put, I’d have likely ignored them and gotten up to walk it off. But having worked with him over the past few years, I trusted the doctor’s judgment.
Within a half a minute, a volunteer fireman had stopped and asked if we needed him to notify 911. Since we were in an area with no cell coverage, he flipped on his lights and sped away to make the call. He was the first of many strangers who stopped to offer their assistance over the next half hour or so.
One kindly older woman, a Mrs. Miller, brought me a pillow to rest my head on and, worrying that I might catch a chill laying there on the broiling pavement, she covered my chest and arms with a towel. She even asked me if I could use an aspirin to help with the pain.
Soon members of the Panguitch Lake Fire Department were on scene and they carefully held my head in place to keep me immobilized. At this point I could no longer look around to see the different people who were asking if they could help, but there were too many to count. A woman with a strong German accent asked if I could use a bottle of water and placed it nearby.
As I lay there on the side of the road, listening to the sirens drawing closer, I was hit with an overwhelming wave of indebtedness for the goodness that was being shown by perfect strangers. My eyes began welling up with tears of gratitude.
Once the ambulance crew was at my side, they quickly and expertly fitted me with a neck brace and strapped me to a backboard. This whole time I oscillated back and forth between appreciation for the people who were taking care of me and a sense of mortification over being at the center of such a full-blown spectacle.
They transported me to Garfield County Memorial Hospital in Panguitch where an equally remarkable team of nurses and doctors took over. Marshall had grown up in Panguitch and the staff all seemed to know him.
They carefully examined me from head to toe, and the doctor ordered a CT scan be done to ensure that I had no chipped or broken vertebrae or ruptured or bulging discs. Once the results from the CT scan showed that I had sustained no serious injuries, I was able to call my wife and explain what I’d been up to.
In the end, I was bruised and sore, but deeply grateful that so many things had aligned so perfectly to spare me from further harm.
The kindness and concern shown by people I’d never met before and will likely never see again was tremendously reassuring that good remains all around us.
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