Last night I was at a home improvement big box store when a song came over the PA. I immediately recognized it as a song I had first heard on my favorite TV series of all time, Scrubs. The song was “How to Save a Life” by the Fray. I’ll talk about Scrubs more in a minute.
This morning I was surfing the interwebs trying to find more information about this song and band and discovered some interesting things. First, the song (according to wikipedia) was written from the lead singer’s perspective and experience as a camp counselor for troubled teens. There was a particular teen that seemed unreachable, and he was struggling (without a manual) on how to save a life. This resonates deeply with me as a camp director.
Another interesting thing that I learned was that even though the song was intentionally written from a particular perspective, addressing a particular issue, (in a specific time and place) it was written in such a way that it had broad resonance across a spectrum of issues and situations (as many works of art do). The band recognized this, and opened it up to interpretation, inviting others to upload self-made videos of the song. How cool is that?
Now back to Scrubs. The aforementioned episode (and the following one) also resonated deeply with me, incredibly so. In the first episode, “My Lunch” three patients die from rabies infected organs they received from transplants. All three transplants came from Jill, (the “annoying patient”) who has died from what J.D. mistakenly thinks is a drug overdose, and he’s beating himself up for not paying attention to the warning signs because of his annoyance with her. Dr. Cox (J.D.’s abrasive mentor) kicks him out of his funk by chastising him: “The second you start blaming yourself for people’s deaths, there’s no coming back.”
Only later in the episode do we learn that Jill actually died from rabies, as a second transplant patient develops issues and dies. Dr. Cox realizes that by rushing the transplant decisions, he has made a grave error. It is then that Dr. Cox gets the call that the third transplant patient, his friend, is in trouble. After unsuccessfully trying to save his friend, he loses it. J.D., in an effort to return the favor offers Dr. Cox his own advice: “The second you start blaming yourself for people’s deaths, there’s no coming back.” The always gruff and tough-exteriored Dr. Cox, with tears in his eyes simply says, “Ya, you’re right.” and walks out of the hospital.
The following episode, “My fallen idol,” picks up with Dr. Cox being so consumed by his grief that he goes on a bender. Elliot, Turk, Carla, Jordan, Dr. Kelso, even the Todd with Ted and his band all take turns standing 24-hour vigil with the now perpetually inebriated (and assumably suicidal) Dr. Cox. It is only through this constant companionship that Dr. Cox is able to emerge from his long, dark night of the soul.
Both of these images, the camp counselor seeking to break through to a troubled teen, and the community of friends surrounding a loved-one with sheer compassion and simple presence are emotionally powerful, but then I watched the music video and found myself in tears.
(Music Video of The Fray “How to Save a Life” here)
As I watched this video, and the many images of teens who are hurting, it was a stark reminder to me that we are living in a world full of hurting hearts. Teens, Twenties, Thirties, Eighties. Everywhere we turn, people are carrying thinly veiled grief and pain, and when it becomes so unbearable, meltdowns happen, and if left alone with our hurt, terrible, even unspeakable things can happen.
But when surrounded with community, when we pour our love upon one another, healing can begin. Even in the deepest, darkest grief, the blessing of community can bring about wholeness. And the writers of the music video above get that. Watch the video again, and watch the expressions shift and change at the end.
Pain and difficulty are very real part of this life. But so is the good news of life, love, and community, if we are willing to risk ourselves, if we are willing to carry another’s burdens and feel another’s heartache. It is the paradox of life. In our willingness to be broken for another, with another, we ourselves can be made whole.