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Too Much Time on My Hands | terimccarthyblahblahblog

Too Much Time on My Hands

Posted by admin in April 4th, 2009
Published in Uncategorized

I have a terrible habit of arriving early. I guess it comes from overcompensating for the many years I was habitually late to everything. Once I got my life right with God, I decided being on time was evidence that I had truly changed. Well, then that “change” turned into obsessiveness. It drives my husband crazy. Like when we are traveling by air I want to be at the airport literally hours before our scheduled departure. If my friends want to have lunch, I end up sitting in the parking lot at least fifteen minutes before hand because I arrive too early. OCD. I know.

That’s what happened one stinking cold February day in Moscow, 1992. A group of Campus Crusaders had just moved to town. I liked them—all of them. They had microwave popcorn AND a microwave! They had a VCR with lots and lots of movies from home. They could afford creamy chocolate from the Irish Store that required hard currency. A few of them had a great sense of humor. They had a team meeting twice a month and somehow I was able to get invited! I’m sure it was my charm.

This particular afternoon I had way too much time on my hands. My class got out at 2 o’clock and the meeting with the CC gang wasn’t until six. There wasn’t enough time to go home and then go to the Crusaders’ (Campus, not the 11th century kind) across town. My only option was to park myself somewhere underground in the Metro and read a book. So before leaving my apartment that morning, I took some extra reading materials and packed a light snack for the afternoon wait.

Class went well. I thought the world of my former-Soviet-Union-students (no one had come up with a new name yet for the country. It was sort of like the musician formerly known as Prince). I hung around the foreign languages department for a while, visiting with my colleagues and killing some time. Then around 3 o’clock I decided to head out before the rush hour crowd hit the subway.

The Metro system in Moscow is unique in the world. The subway stations, known as Metro stops, are works of art. In fact, when people came to visit me in Moscow, one item on the “to do” list was to tour the Moscow Metro stations. They had paintings, and sculptures and each one represented a theme or highlighted a specific type of art or specific artist. There were Mosaics to die for, oil paintings that would bring one to tears, Soviet style sculptures that showed the equality of men and women holding tools and medical instruments in their hands, broad-shouldered, square jawed, hair permanently blowing in the wind, long coats flowing behind them like a jet stream.

However, the subway station I was heading to wasn’t particularly special. Either they ran out of money or someone opted for a more minimalist look. I don’t know. I got to the station just a quarter to four and sat down on a bench in the middle of the platform. To my left people were heading into the city center; to my right they were headed to the suburbs. My bench was backed up to a bulletin board advertising everything from English lessons to travel visas services.

The rush hour was just starting and I was glad I had missed it by a few minutes. Soon the platforms were crowded with people who had been treated like animals for so long by the communist regime that they had forgotten how to be gracious and gentle with one another. My Russian friends always said, “No one is more cruel to a Russian than another Russian.” And watching the coming and going of the commuters validated that statement.

There was pushing and shoving and everyone was trying to get on the train before the exiting passengers could get off. In short it was its usual chaos.

One thing that occurred too often in Moscow was the number of people, especially men, one saw lying in the street passed out from drunkenness. It was happening more and more all over the city. People talked about it, the newspapers condemned it. It was becoming somewhat of an epidemic. I saw it often. One of the terrible aspects of being over exposed to that sort of thing is we as humans become desensitized to the suffering. It is kind of like seeing too much violence on TV and not really taking it seriously. I was certainly guilty of it. I saw five to six men passed out each day on the streets. Sadly, I stopped noticing them.

So there I was sitting on my little bench watching the people coming and going, pushing and shoving. There were big ones, small ones, beautiful ones, ugly ones, young ones, old ones and everyone was bundled up against the cold. Scarves and hats and gloves and shawls and expensive furs and cheap furs. It was winter; it was Russia; it was stinking cold.

The average, inexperienced observer could tell when the train was pulling up to the platform. Not because of the noise, but because of how the people would crowd around the edge of the platform. People had died because of these crowds accidentally pushing an innocent commuter over the edge and onto the tracks. I had never seen this, but my friends had. What a horrible way to die!

I knew the train was coming. I wanted to go up to everyone and shout at them to use caution and take safety measures. I wanted to bark out orders like a pre-school teacher, “Be polite! Wait for the others to disembark before entering the train! Don’t push! Alex, keep your hands to yourself!”

I was translating all these speeches in my head when the train pulled in and sure enough, before the doors could open, the crowding and shoving started. The crowd entering the car nearest me began stumbling over something. Several tripped into the train. I couldn’t quite see what it was so I stood up and it caught my breath—it was a body lying on that platform. I moved closer to see what had happened. A man had been knocked down. He had a little bit of blood oozing from his forehead. He was out cold and people were stepping over him (and stepping on him) to get on the train. I pushed and shoved and inched my way through the crowd to him. Was he drunk? He didn’t smell of alcohol and he was dressed fairly well. Then I saw it. It was unbelievable! The loose end of his scarf, or muffler, which was wrapped several times around his neck, had caught on a small metal hook attached to the front end of the car. If that train pulled out of the station, it was going to take him with it. I panicked.

Finally, I reached him and tried to wake him, but he wouldn’t come to. I shouted at people, in English and Russian, but no one listened to me. “Help. Help me. This man’s scarf is stuck on the car.”

I couldn’t reach the hook. With just seconds to spare and the bell ringing letting passengers know the train doors were closing, a tall long-armed man reached over the body and unhooked the scarf just as the train took off. I could literally feel the wind of the train as it whisked passed us. The stranger who had unhooked the scarf left me there with my unconscious ward.

“Help! Please someone help!” I kept screaming. Two young men were walking by and decided to help. One grabbed the feet the other grabbed the shoulders and they moved him over to my wooden slatted bench. They laid him down carelessly and not with any amount of ease and walked off. I reached down to pick up my tote bag and as I turned around my man had slid off the bench and conked his head once again on the concrete floor of the Metro station. The sound of that head hitting the concrete echoed throughout the hall. It was sickening.

His head was already bleeding a little from the first knock out, but now he was losing color and barely breathing. I have no medical background. I don’t know CPR! I don’t know anything, but I could tell this guy was fading fast. In complete desperation I started screaming, “In the name of Jesus you will live and not die! Do you hear me? You will live and not die in Jesus’ name!”

Then I begged, pleaded, bargained with God not to let this guy die. “Please Lord, please help him. Please tell me what to do.” About that time, and I was pretty hysterical by the way, a young, tall, thin, blond-haired man bent over me and asked in English (with a Russian accent), “Can I help?”

I started telling him what happened. “Yes, yes. This man was knocked down by the train and was unconscious. I got him over here and he fell off the bench. He is turning gray and barely breathing. I think the last bump got to him. Please can you help him?”

“Yes, I am a medical doctor. I actually trained in the States.”

He pulled his backpack off and dug out a stethoscope. He opened up the guy’s jacket. I made a pillow for him out of his scarf and cradled his head in my lap as I sat on the floor next to him.

“His heart rate is weak,” the doctor said to me. He called for help and told someone to get an ambulance. A station janitor ran for the Metro phone. Finally the ambulance came with a canvas stretcher and loaded him up and carried him up the stairs. Some of his color had returned. The doctor asked where he could reach me and was I the nearest relative.

“I don’t know this guy. I just saw what happened,” I answered.

He smiled and shook his head, “Americans.” I gave the doctor my card and asked him to call me as soon as they knew something. (Okay, he was really attractive and wasn’t wearing a ring. My motives weren’t completely pure).

With knees knocking and hands trembling I made my way to the Campus Crusaders’ apartment. I rang the door bell and one of my friends answered, “Hey Teri’s here. Did you have any trouble getting here?” I paused for a moment and then decided to just say no.

That night around 11 o’clock the attractive Russian doctor called me to let me know “our” patient was doing fine. He did indeed suffer a nasty blow to the head. His family was with him and he was going to be alright. He would probably be released tomorrow. I kept hoping cute doctor guy would ask if we could have coffee sometime. Didn’t happen. Glad now ‘cause I got Daryl. But at the time it was disappointing. But I was happy to hear the good news that stranger guy was going to be okay. I never saw either of them again.

I went to bed that night thinking about the events of the day. Is there such a thing as coincidence for those who are in Christ Jesus? Is there happenstance? Or is it true what Scripture says?

Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were planned for me, when none of them as yet existed.”

Job 31:4, “Does God not see my ways, and number all my steps?”

Psalm 37:23, “A person’s comings and goings are established by Jehovah; And that person delights in God’s way.”

I don’t know. In my heart of hearts I think it was a divine appointment. I’m enough of a Reformed girl to believe in predestination. Corrie ten Boom used to say that God had a folder with our name on it and in that folder are His plans for our lives and when we accept Christ it is as if we showed up at the desk and are handed our folder. “Here’s what I planned for you before the foundations of the earth were laid.” I go back to the old poem thing Daryl taught me, “We are God’s masterpiece (the Greek word here is poema) created in Christ Jesus to walk in good works that he planned beforehand for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). I hope so. I hope life isn’t just random. Peace.

3 users Responded In This Post

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99. ndhorton said,
April 6th, 2009 at 8:16 am

I love your stories, and I love your honesty!

100. Renee said,
April 6th, 2009 at 10:23 pm


You are truly an inspiration. I have enjoyed keeping up with you blog.

Renee (Flowers)

101. big sister said,
April 7th, 2009 at 9:56 am

Is it just me or can we all picture being there in the presence of this divine appointment? Sis, your writing is so anointed and, much like reading the stories in the Bible, you can picture being there (without the pictures). Thanks for sharing and I am so glad you used the ‘p’ word!!!!! (predestination of the believer – yes!)

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