Don’t Forget to Count the Babies
As children we loved them : the excitement and chaos, the running on the football field knowing our teachers had no control. As adolescence we hated them: they were the reason that the hottest boys in eighth-grade saw us in our dorky gym clothes. As teenagers we prayed for them: that they would happen during the chemistry test we forgot to study for or at the exact moment that the not-so-hot freshman was about to ask us out. As adults we tire of them: we are now the teachers that have no control.
They are fire drills.
They prepare us for the possibilities while disrupting the inevitable.
I once had to march 30 seniors through muddy grass and across a parking lot, only to leave them standing in the pouring rain while some guy with a megaphone explained to them proper evacuation procedures. It was hard to convince them that ruining their shoes, flattening their hair, and running their makeup was worth knowing the nearest exit. The inevitable ignored for the sake of possibilities.
The school I work at sits next door to a firehouse run by volunteers. No one is ever there. When the alarm goes off, it bounces through the valley until the nearest volunteer comes and turns it off. Then, said volunteer can respond to the call. Yesterday, it rang for over fifteen minutes. I could only wonder who suffered the eternity of fifteen minutes waiting for a volunteer to hear their call. The inevitable sacrificed for possibilities.
My mom is a labor and delivery nurse. She works in a hospital that takes the safety of their babies very seriously. To avoid baby-snatching they code the elevators and make all visitors pass through a secured door into the wing. The nurses on the floor are trained to count babies when the fire alarm goes off. Before moving patients to safety, before crowding into the fire escapes, they have to count the babies. All of this, just in case the alarm is only a diversion by a desperate babynapper. The inevitable dictated by possibilities.
Last week my (step) dad, Jim, watched my kids while I worked. At 9:30 am he got a call that the fire alarm rang in one of his buildings. He threw the kids in his truck and raced downtown to the condominiums. By the time he pulled in, the whole block was littered with tenants, firetrucks, ambulances, and the typical gaukers. Though there were sirens and flashing lights, the tenants looked groggy and irritated, the fireman bored, the onlookers disappointed that the alarm appeared false. My dad instructed my kids to stay put, locked the doors, and raced to investigate.
He followed the fire chief to the control panel where they determined the trigger source and headed to the condo in question. As they climbed the stairs they discussed the likelihood that the siren sounded as the result of a faulty wire, loose alarm, or tenant error. But when they entered the apartment, all they found was an industrial strength vacuum cleaner sitting directly beneath the fire alarm. Suspicious, if not telling.
Jim knew immediately that the vacuum belonged to the cleaning crew, but realized he had not seen any of “his ladies.” After dismissing the firemen, he wandered behind the building where he found four cleaning ladies wide-eyed and huddled by the dumpster. They all denied any knowledge of the vacuum, swore no admittance into the guilty condo, and gave no explanation as to why they sat wide-eyed in the alley. My dad just smiled and let it slide. Afterall, it was a false alarm.
Life is full of false alarms. Life is often just a drill.
We daily face circumstances and situations that ring out as though the world as we know it is coming to an end. The possibilities ignore, sacrifice, and dictate the inevitable and we just stop living because all we can hear is the siren. But if we are willing to listen we will also hear: BE STILL and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
We don’t have to count the babies, God already did. We don’t have to wait for the alarm to turn off before help can come, God’s care is voluntary but not on a volunteer basis. We don’t have to traipse through the grass, He is carrying us. And we certainly do not have to hide in the alley, He’s got that covered too.
The drill is not what we do, but do we know where to turn?
After the chaos at the condo, Jim returned to his truck. My kids, who usually only sit still for candy, were motionless in the back seat. As much as they did not understand about what was going on, they knew that their Papa had told them to be still and wait. He would take care of the rest.