The Story about the Ambulance


Everyone seemed to enjoy the story about the ambulance in last Sunday’s sermon, and so I thought I would post it here.  For those of you who are a little more spiritual and want to know what (on God’s green earth) a story about an ambulance has to do with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the click of a mouse will bring you the sermon in full audio or video


Here’s the story:


When I was a junior in college, I started my own fraternity.  I called it Omicron Zeta, and when you wrote the initials side by side they made a big “O-Z.”  To anyone who didn’t know they were Greek letters, they just looked like the word “OZ,” as in “The Wizard of.”  So, because it had been my idea, I got to be the Wizard.  Other fraternity names, which were handed out in short order, were the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto.  My fraternity brothers and I were going to have jerseys made up with the names on the back.  Someone had the idea of having, as our pledge pin, a three-and-a-half pound bowling pin.  Our pledges would have to carry it around with them during the day, set it up on the corner of their desks while they were in class, and try hard not to knock it over.  That’s about as far as we had gotten with rules and regulations when I found the ambulance at a flea market.


There was this big flea market that used to be held every Saturday at the edge of town, and when I went out there that next Saturday I saw this big, ugly ambulance with a sign that read, “$500 Firm.”  It didn’t look like an ambulance, really.  It looked like a hearse.  It was long and dark with tail fins, and enough room in the back for a full-sized casket.  I asked the owner about it and he said it wasn’t a hearse, it was an ambulance, and he proved it by showing me the lockers inside that were meant for medical supplies.  “You see,” he said, “you wouldn’t need medical supplies in a hearse.”  He made a good point.  He also showed me the place on the top where the flashing red light used to be, and swore that the ambulance used to be white before it had been painted from stem to stern In a kind of dull, gray primer.   “Best of all,” he said, “it’s a Cadillac.”  And it was.  I admired the Cadillac emblem on the front grill and took a look at the powerful engine beneath the hood. 


I had this vision of this old ambulance, with a fresh coat of glossy white paint and the Omicron Zeta insignia stenciled on both sides in gold letters.  We would call it the “Ozmobile,” and all of us would pile into it together to drive down to Lexington for pizza at Joe Bologna’s.  It would be great.  “Does it run?” I asked.  “Oh, yeah,” he answered.  “It runs good.”  “Could I give it a try?” I asked, and he looked around warily.  “Maybe not right now,” he said.  “But if you come back this afternoon, with the money, we could take it out for a spin.”  “Well,” I answered, “I don’t have the money right now, but I think I could get it.”  “Why don’t you do that,” he said, grinning.  “I’ll hold it for you.”  And so, I hurried back toward the campus, to talk to my fraternity brothers and see if, among the five of us, we could come up with a hundred dollars apiece.  Somewhere along the way, I made the mistake of telling my girlfriend. 


“You’re buying a what?” she asked.


“An ambulance!” I said.  “This cool, old ambulance that looks like a hearse.  It’s only five hundred dollars, and, best of all, it’s a Cadillac.”


“You’re buying a what?” she asked, again.


“A Cadillac,” I said.  “I’m buying a beautiful old Cadillac ambulance for my fraternity.  We’re going to call it the Ozmobile.”

There was a long silence before she spoke again.


“You have to understand something, Jim,” she said.  “When I think of you, I think of you as my future husband.  And when you do something like this, it worries me.  I wonder what kind of husband you’re going to be, somebody who buys old broken-down, hearse-looking ambulances at the drop of a hat.  I mean, that’s not very responsible, is it?”


And I looked at her for a long moment, stunned.  What kind of girl had I fallen in love with, a girl who couldn’t rejoice in the good fortune of a man who had found an old, broken down, hearse-looking ambulance (at a really good price!) that could be used to transport his rowdy fraternity brothers from one cheap pizza place to another?  It just didn’t make sense at all.  I said to her, “Look, you may think of me as your future husband and I may be your future husband (though it’s not looking likely), but right now I’m a junior in college.  We’re supposed to be irresponsible!”  But you know what?  I didn’t buy that ambulance, and it wasn’t only because I couldn’t get the money together, it was because of her.  It was because she wanted me to be someone other than who I was, and I—because I thought she was so pretty, because she looked so good on my arm, because I enjoyed carrying her picture around in my wallet so much—I gave in.  In some ways I have been ashamed ever since because I don’t think it was what Jesus would have done. 


I think Jesus would have bought that ambulance.


7 thoughts on “The Story about the Ambulance

  1. Dear Pastor Sommerville:

    Jesus would have bought the ambulance. Because once you have it, who knows to what use God might make it? And besides, maybe its highest and best use would have been to go to pizza parlors.


    Darren Hart

  2. I, too, think that Jesus would have bought that Cadillac. It’s part of every young man’s right of passage to blow every penny on something that he just has to have. My father bought a model T when he was in seminary, and he already had three children and a wife to support. But he was the proudest person standing next to that open vehicle with his foot up on the running board, in his knickers and striped knee socks. I think it was the high that made all the lows to follow more bearable.

    Thanks for sharing, Marge

  3. Hey
    That ambulance is a beaut.
    Jesus wouldn`t think about earthlygoods but he would approved of it anyway,what makes each happy right? 🙂
    I`m proud now, because I have accomplished a childhood dream, buying a 59 Cadillac, but I feel abit guilt now, seeing all the people in Haiti starving and all the poverty in the world.

    Lars T.

  4. Passenger car-based ambulances and funeral cars are the most noble cars on the road. They assisted carrying someone to help and also took a loved one to their final resting place in a dignified matter. No limousine could ever match that. It truly is an honor to own a vehicle like that. Hand built and unique in every way.
    But for the record, many hearses doubled as ambulances back in the day. Funeral homes used to operate the ambulance services because they were the only ones in town that had a vehicle long enough to carry a person in a recumbent position. The lights were removable. The floor was interchangeable to where you could flip the panels over and have it smooth so one can get a cot or gurney in, or the other side had rollers that made placing a casket into the compartment with ease. And the funeral homes offered the ambulance service at little or no charge at all. It was their way of giving back to the community.
    By the 1970s that all changed when the federal government got involved and required anyone treating patents in an ambulance to have higher certifications other than advance first aid. And those employees had to be paid for the time they were on duty. This caused the funeral homes to give up on this service because it was no longer cost effective for them because they were not even charging to begin with. Also the government stated that all ambulances had to carry certain kind of equipment…most too large to fit into a vehicle that doubled as a hearse and an ambulance. There were some passenger car based ambulances that had a higher roof line that could accommodate such equipment, but those days would soon be numbered
    By 1977 when the feds ordered all cars to be downsized, that was the final blow to the passenger car based ambulance

  5. Just a random picture, Jeffe. Found it on Google images. But it does look a lot like the one I wanted.

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