Seems like I keep getting distracted from returning to Claude Bristol’s “The Magic of Believing” by meeting up with people in interesting or unusual situations, whether it’s on television or in person. Such was the case last week, when I attended a businesswomen’s networking dinner and had the privilege of sitting at the same table with a woman named Carmen Velazquez. Carmen is the President and CEO of a company called Biohazard Response, Inc.
My initial introduction to Carmen and her company came when our table went through a round of one-minute introductions. I was astonished when she described her job, which consists of cleaning up the scene of a suicide or homicide, houses where there has been a death involving infectious body fluids, or residences where there are dead animals and bird or rodent droppings. It wasn’t that I had never heard of such workers before, but I’d never given them much thought, either, having fortunately never been faced with a need for their services. And I suppose part of my surprise was that the mention of such a job seemed almost like a loaded grenade thrown into this atmosphere of happy, positive, well-dressed women.
I quickly went from being startled to intrigued, and made a mental note to speak further with Carmen at the close of the evening. I had to know what had attracted her to such a career. Was she a nurse, perhaps?
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch all of what Carmen said, due to the noise level in the room as people were getting ready to leave, but I was struck by her first statement, that she’d had a lot of experience with victims of domestic violence, which led me to wonder if some of those experiences had ended in death. I later learned from her Web site that she had worked for many years with the government on issues of domestic violence, and it was seeing the aftermath of some of those experiences that led her to found BRI. But the one thing she said which resounded with me so strongly that I felt moved to write about her was that her company attempts to bring “the human aspect” to the dirty aftermath of traumatic events.
I learned some important things from BRI’s brochure – such as that police, fire department, EMTs and medical examiner personnel do not clean up after traumas such as those I mentioned above. What surprised me in particular was that most of them are actually forbidden to give referrals to a trauma scene cleanup specialist. Nor had I ever considered that strict federal regulations might apply to such cleanup and disposal (understandably, in the age of HIV/AIDS, they do).
You might be wondering by now what all this has to do with the overall concept of fitness featured in this blog. So glad you asked.
Too often we think of that word as applying only to the shape of our physical bodies, don’t we? Yet we are spiritual beings as well, and our minds and spirits can get out of shape just as easily as our bodies. I believe it’s a form of spiritual fitness that BRI address in three words which appear in their brochure: “Protect and Care.” To quote them directly:
“At Biohazard Response, Inc., these two words define our mission. The Care we take in our approach in serving our clients, while striving to Protect them from the psychological shock and physical dangers. Many people are shocked at the burden of cleaning up, when left to deal with a traumatic episode, alone.”
Carmen, her husband and their certified Bio-Technicians bring “the human aspect” to difficult, messy, odorous and onerous work. As she pointed out, trauma cleanup workers frequently, maybe even characteristically, display gallows humor or macho attitudes about their jobs – and I don’t think any of us could completely fault them for it. I imagine it’s their way of coping with the unpleasantness, much as physicians learn to do to emotionally distance themselves from their patients. But, as Carmen told me, her company is attempting to change that stereotype.
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Throughout the evening I had been struck by the theme of community that resounded in the meeting room. Women helping women to connect on a business level was the main focus, but underlying all was the necessity for connection on a human level at the same time. I was moved by an old rabbinical story told by the meeting’s director, which goes like this:
There was a saint who had a vision of life in Heaven and Hell. In Hell he saw a huge table laden with food in the center. Surrounding the table were starving people who all had very long forks attached to the ends of their arms. They could stab the food, but the forks were too long for them to put the food in their mouths. They were screaming in frustration as they tried to eat the food they longed for. In Heaven, the saint saw the exact same table laden with food, and people with long forks at the ends of their arms. However, here the people were all smiling & enjoying the food: They were stabbing the food & putting it into EACH OTHER's mouths!
In my opinion, people like Carmen and her “compassionate company that will put your peace of mind first” are feeding the community in a special way with their focus on “the human aspect” of tragedy. I felt privileged to have crossed paths with her, and that’s why Biohazard Response, Inc. is featured here as Web Site of the Week. Folks, I sincerely hope you never need their services, but in the event that you or someone you know eventually does, I’m glad to be able to recommend them. You can find out more about BRI at http://www.biohazardresponse.com/. If nothing else, drop them an email and give them a well-deserved thanks for the caring they bring to their services.
And until we meet again...Keep on Treading!