“You’ve reached the England’s, leave us a message! If this is an emergency for which you need an ambulance or the fire department, please call 9-1-1 immediately!”
We laugh, but that was the message on my family phone for years in the tiny town where I grew up, right in the middle of Ogallala Commons territory on the Great Plains. You might call it a hazard of my father being a volunteer fire chief and my family serving as part of the Emergency Medical Services team since practically before the 9-1-1 system existed. I’ve answered our phone many times to find someone on the other end asking us to come take a blood pressure, bring a fire truck to their leaf pile that got out of hand, or sometimes something even more serious.
I’ve learned a lot of things about health as a commonwealth asset growing up in a family of Emergency Medical Technicians and firefighters and becoming an EMT myself—the most important of which is that health is far more than physical. It’s no secret that many rural areas struggle to find funding, stay fully staffed, and have quick access when it comes to healthcare. However, true to the pioneering spirit that got us this far, we find ways to make life work with a little innovation and a lot of collaboration, because true wellness is a function of community.
It’s the group of local families that stop to check on an elderly widow every day, taking by meals and smiles.
It’s the youth taking time to listen and record the stories of previous generations – inspiring cross-generational relationships that provide mentoring and remind our elders that they have something powerful to contribute.
It’s the creative fundraisers for the volunteer fire departments and ambulance services.
It’s community health education like our CPR and First Aid classes offered free to anyone who wants to put in the time.
It’s doctors and nurses who build relationships with patients because they’re also friends and neighbors.
It’s the “Fifth Sunday Sings” when all the local churches worship together and share a meal – the focus on what unites rather than what divides.
It’s the small-town school that knows when a student is having a rough day and the teacher that sits down with them to figure out why.
It’s the entire region that comes together to mourn when we lose one of our own and the flood of support that follows.
It’s passionate leaders and volunteers who keep the momentum going on the long days, the hard days, and the “why isn’t anything happening” days.
In a community, we depend on each other. In a community, we find we don’t have to face life alone. In a community, we find ourselves held accountable, because our communities need us. And learning we are needed is a great motivator for health.
So, should you ever have to call for help, I hope you call 9-1-1. But I also hope you call on your community.
That’s what we’re here for.
Megan England, NREMT | Megan England’s day job is in public relations and brand management for a private Christian university. In her spare time, she volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician in her hometown: Campo, Colorado.