How much do you value it? Life? It is easy in today’s world to become desensitized to the preciousness of every living creation. I actually worry about our young people and what has been their world via media and social media. My youngest sister had only the choice of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers‘ Neighborhood for non cartoon children TV programming when she was young and impressionable. My children’s world by teenage years included seemingly innocuous programs such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and various super hero films. Although many were animated or sci fi, there really was a lot of violence and killing, even if virtual. Not to mention cult classics like “Fargo” and “Kill Bill”. Graphic violence on TV, in video games and movies, and even on YouTube then shared on Facebook are a sad reality today, not to mention TV news by its nature often graphically or suggestively violent. Inevitably, the setpoint for sensitivity for the preciousness of life lowers as our senses are bombarded with violent imagery, and more challenging, these setpoints become the wiring for our youth when exposed to seemingly uncensored violence at young ages when their own world views are forming.
I was so moved as I heard about Dr. Heimlich who last week at age 96 saved the life of a fellow resident in a Cincinnati senior living center as he used the “Heimlich maneuver” for the first time. Although he had developed the technique, this was the first opportunity he had to utilize it himself.
As I read more about his life, it became clear that his was a trajectory of saving countless lives as he had developed many outside-the-box techniques to do just that. He treated eye infections in China decades ago with a mixture of antibiotics and shaving cream to create an ointment to cure a ravaging infectious disorder. He developed a stomach lining replacement to help the many cases of predominantly children who swallowed lye before the development of childproof bottles. The Heimlich Valve carried by soldiers in the Vietnam War as a precaution to drain chest fluid after injury was created by him initially experimenting with a flutter valve available in five and dime stores. The Quakers even shipped these devices to North Vietnam to save lives there as well.
Such an individual who not only saved lives but developed radical procedures to do so portrays a man who profoundly understands the preciousness of life and whose setpoint is at the opposite extreme of today’s media. It is unlikely we can change media, although we can limit our and our family’s interaction with it. And we can share such inspirational stories as Dr. Heimlich’s with our children. We can model life cherishing behavior in our own lives. Yes, Sid will tell you. We don’t kill insects in our home. And I’m a screamer when they’re nearby. So he lovingly captures spiders, in particular, and flying bugs, if possible, to let them live outdoors.
We can reiterate to our children and remind ourselves of the beauty of every living thing. Do we destroy or restore? How much is recycling a part of our daily routines? Do we advance ecological efforts by our informed purchases? Do we support efforts to save our vanishing wetlands and forests? Do we give blood? Are we organ donors? Have we rescued any animals? Supported the SPCA? When walking do we admire the beautiful flowers or pick them? Are we careful where we step to not kill the ants just doing their thing? Sharpening our sensitivity to the beauty of life starts small but changes us deeply.
To love life profoundly begins with awareness of the preciousness of each of its parts, no matter how tiny. When we reset our sensibilities to care for even the smallest of His creations, we become viscerally connected to the overwhelming magnitude of His created world. Although none of us may rise to the difference that Dr. Heimlich has made in saving thousands, each of us can start somewhere. May you save a life this week, even if just an ant’s, and in so doing more deeply live lovingly your own.