Unintended Longing
by Carolyn A. Rumpf

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I saw the terror and the pain and the fear, my heart heaved and I became.........jealous. Jealous!

Jealous of people who ran into burning buildings to save others. Out of goodness. Out of duty. Out of a true and measurable commitment to others, and to God. Facing certain death, firefighters ran into a hell that the rest of the world watched on television. Everywhere people silently thanked God to be living and breathing far away from this pit of death. And yet, I felt empty and wished I could change places with them.

I never wanted to fight fires. I thought those people were crazy. I let firemen go ahead of me in line at the grocery store, where they shop in Manhattan in groups (always buying dozens of onions, never figured out why), and offered to pay for their groceries. I thought it was a nice thing to do, and good insurance. Should I have a fire in my apartment, I want all the extra help I can get. I thought these guys were brave, but pathetically clueless. Why would anyone pass up a safe office job and instead choose to face down the horrors the rest of us hope never to see? I work for lawyers. Some might argue that it is a dangerous living, but last I checked, we weren't dragging hoses around to cool down testy lawyers.  I rationalized that they were less afraid of fire than most people. They had training, and understood the laws of its nature. I was wrong.

The thing that these guys had over me all along was that they had accepted the challenge to live life, and learned not to be afraid of fire and passion and the general fear and messiness in life, and instead, had learned to embrace it.

Embracing the fire, dancing with it, hugging it means, fundamentally, being committed. Committed to others. To something beyond the safety of their own worlds. They made the decision to live life with the highest purpose: to serve others. To love others as much as or more than themselves.  The beauty of these men's lives was evidenced even more clearly by the stories told by their families. Picture after picture flashed on my television screen, men younger than me........their lives filled with wives and kids and mortgages and leaky pipes and never knowing when they could be off for the weekend..........all one massive commitment to loving someone outside of themselves. Again, I felt jealous. I have yet to meet my soul mate, and to think I have not committed myself to anyone or anything with the highest purpose left me bereft.

Unintended longing. For a life lived at its highest purpose. For the men who left the planet, and can no longer share with me the secrets of living a committed life. Unintended longing to love and be loved. Unintended longing to be closer to God in a way I am not sure I fully comprehend. Unintended longing for answers to questions great and small. And as silly as it sounds, unintended longing for an answer as to what those damn onions were all about.


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