Chris and I were not that mature. We, and a few others, like Jenny and Heather only had our eyes on #1. In the words of Highlander, “In the end, there can be only one.” How did I betray Chris? In the end, I put my desire to win above our friendship. I didn’t cheat – – thank God I didn’t cheat – – but my heart was shallow water and I did not love him as a brother should. In knowing me, did I draw him to Christ? I am still ashamed. Love Letter – – part 9 from the beginning
How competitive was Health Careers High School? Every 6 weeks the class averages in every class were posted with names in order. Chris, Jenny, Heather, and I jockied in every class. How did I compete with Chris in math? The assessments were not hard enough to differentiate our talents. How did he compete with me in humanities? Much the same. Jenny and Heather had more balanced giftings. How bad did it get? I brought home one report card with four 100 averages, two 98s and a 97. I actually spent time and emotion accounting for the missing 7 points. The idol rose in my heart. So, when I warn a medical student not to feel too deeply for 0.5 points missed on an assessment – – I know of what I speak. This is where self confidence tilted to corrosive pride — where my success could only be validated by the relative failure of others. It saddens me to write that. I’ve confessed it long ago and I’ve walked in forgiveness. I know that God chose to forget my sin. I choose to remember.
What kind of Christ follower was Pascal in high school? What kind of witness? The worst kind. I had not love. What else draws people to him but love? What is steadily drawing Russell back? Love. So here I was, a successful and “good” boy – – defined more by what I didn’t do than by what I did. Is it what we say or what we do that matters most? I took summer school after the freshman year and volunteered at Bexar County Hospital in the medical center. I was given several choices for work, but only one involved patient contact. It was the 11th floor – – inpatient psychiatry. Jogging by SASH near my Dad’s first apartment, working here with the very sick and poor. Isn’t it ironic? I learned more compassion that summer, although much was only realized after my own valley. I got pretty good at ping pong. That and smoking are pretty big on the locked ward. I’ll never forget the most depressed person I’ve ever met. Most suicide precautions came up with sutured wrists. I only saw one with the courage or psychosis to cut past the tendons. He came up with a turban-like bandage, a mangled ear, and an eye filled with blood. He had place his head on the train tracks. That’s what saved him – – the blow threw him clear. He was concussed, battered, alive, and in even a deeper pit than before he tried to escape. I realized then and recognize now that depression is more about apathy than sadness. And apathy is paralyzing. I spent as much time with him as I could. Often just sitting and being there – – the only good thing Job’s three friends did. It was a pre-HIPPA time and I was even allowed to serve as his 1:1 sitter when the aide or nurse needed a break.
Toward the end of his stay – – before he went to SASH where the chronics went – – we played ping pong. I tried very hard to let him win without being obvious. Where is he now? He would be my brother’s age. One summer afternoon while working I saw I nurse who had been kind to me approach. She said that my mother had been delayed but would pick me up an hour late. My father had been hurt at work, she was getting more information, and we would go to see him together. At work? My father was a mechanical engineer. Did he have a third degree paper cut or a pencil flesh wound? As it turned out he was inspecting an air handling unit in the cavernous building in which he worked. It required a ladder ascent and he lost his grip, falling twenty feet to a concrete apron.
-to be continued-
Photo credit: Handwritten letter by Descarte: by PHGCOM [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons