The Dude With the Official Card

Several years ago, I earned my official card.

But, then and now, I hope the time to use the learnings from my earnings never arrives.

The card? It’s similar to a regular business card or like one of those coupons a pizza joint provides for a free family-sized pie after ten purchases. It has a white background with tiny black lettering. There’s a distinctive red symbol on the left side. Underneath Larry Patten (yes, my name) and next to the Red Cross’ red cross are the fancy words, “has completed the requirements for CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer and the Healthcare Provider.”

After an 8-hour Red Cross training session, I can perform CPR. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. And I know how to use the AED device. Automated External Defibrillator. The AED—modest in size, mighty in purpose—sends an electrical shock into the body. Used properly, an AED can be the literal heartfelt difference between life and death.

At least, that’s what the card with smallish print claims is now part of my skill-set. But I beg you, please don’t collapse onto the recently mopped floor of the local mall, unconscious and unresponsive while doing your holiday gift buying. Yikes! Other shoppers might gawk or scurry away. But I’m the dude with the official card.

Or would that be dud?

I did pass that test! I do know the drill!

Check the immediate area. Is it safe? Then I’ll loudly ask you (the person sprawled between Victoria’s Secret and the Hallmark store), “Are you OK?” Since you don’t answer, I’ll make sure a fellow mall-crawler calls 9-1-1. Then, taking no more than ten seconds, I’ll assess you for breathing and movement. I’ll give you two rescue breaths to determine any airway blockage. No worries . . . there won’t be direct mouth contact because I carry sterile resuscitation masks in my back pocket (right pocket has child/infant mask and the left holds the adult-sized mask).

You have a pulse! Whew. I don’t need the AED unit, though it’s tucked into my daypack.

Unconscious? You still are.

Now I’ll tilt your head back to clear the air passage and start breathing for you: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand one/give a breath…one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand two/give a breath. And so on.

Hey, this is the kind of lip service you want!

After two minutes, I’ll re-evaluate your condition: still near Victoria’s Secret, with a pulse, not breathing. Back to work. Don’t worry, I’ll do this until the cows return to the barn and the pigeons come home to roost and the professional emergency people arrive.


I viewed the Red Cross’ informative media presentations, listened to the instructor, and collaborated with other eager trainees on choking and two-person CPR. I resuscitated the plastic dummy ten times. Maybe more? Never once did Mr. Dummy die. (Nor did Mr. Dummy ever thank me.) I was a hero for the Dummy family’s stiff-jointed, sour-faced baby. I guarantee you, that thick-skinned tyke was back to breathing after I finished with him. Or her? I took the 40-question exam and missed two questions. You could flub eight and still pass.

Honestly, I know nearly nothing. I beseech you: don’t tumble to the floor when I’m nearby.

Spending a day in Red Cross training nudged me to ponder the end of time according to Mark’s gospel. Though, as Mark confided, we “do not know when that time will come.” Of course, Mark referred to the apocalypse when the “sun will be darkened.” According to the Red Cross, the only time I’m prepared for is a person’s lack of breathing and/or pulse. And yet, aren’t both—Creation and each and every mortal human—teetering toward the end of time?

Before leaving class, I told the instructor that I wasn’t ready to actually use CPR or an AED in the “real world.” I told him I took the class in case I found a part-time job as a hospice chaplain, but to use my brief acquaintance with the Dummy family to actually save someone . . .?

He smiled and nodded. “When someone is hired—as a nurse, firefighter, police, and even chaplain—they regularly work on their skills with their team. Then you get out in the field. Then you practice more. Here, we’re just one small part of the learning.”

One small start . . .

The Gospel of Mark (including other apocalyptic writers like Daniel and Revelation) claimed the world would soon end. One way or the other, it will. I trust scientific theories, confident our sun will eventually consume its gasses and become a so-called red giant. Not good for human life on Earth. But an end will come. Billions of years from now . . . no sunrise, no sunset. No sun.

Soon (December 3 this year), Advent’s season begins. Again. As usual, it scripturally jumpstarts with a doomsday reminder like Mark 13. Urgency reigns. Calamity lurks around the corner.

Should I fret over Mark’s warning of future doom? Well, God knows, whatever happens, and whenever it happens, it’s above my pay grade.

And yet what have I learned? What will I practice?

I remember the first lesson in my CPR/AED class. Stay alert. Assess the situation.

Every single day I can help save a life. Maybe—especially if I practice my CPR again and again—it will be because of the Red Cross-sanctioned breath of life. But I don’t need to wait for someone to collapse near Victoria’s Secret. Indeed, stay alert. Assess the situation. With every person, perhaps my words of kindness or my actions of compassion or my willingness to listen will revive another person’s literal or symbolic heart.

Tomorrow, maybe, the sun darkens.

Today, how can I help it shine?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Again, I really like this, Larry.
    Thank you.
    I forwarded it to a friend of mine whom I know will appreciate it.

  2. Larry, I chickened out with Mark. I’m going with Isaiah. You always have great ideas and I look forward each week. I also have promised myself not to cheat and read you before I start mine. That is not to say I won’t change after I’ve read what you wrote but I give my brain a chance!

    1. Oh, the many times I “chickened out” with some scriptures!!! It’s one thing to read certain scriptures in the “safety” of our offices, but quite another to stand in front of a congregation! Thanks for sharing, Pat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.