Character of a Hero: Grace & Strength

I do find joy, even in this current situation. True joy in life does not come from focusing on ourselves, but from focusing on others, pouring out all the love, kindness, and forgiveness we have/can.”  – Shannon Ferrell

   Shannon and Shanda are two of our lovely guests who have been coming to the tearoom together for many years.  One can always recognize them when they come to the tearoom because they always come together, dressed to the nines, they always have a gracious smile for anyone who is fortunate enough to serve them. 

   Both these women have hearts as big as our desert sky, with the courage of conquerors, and wills of iron. Both women also exemplify that beautiful combination of Grace and Strength that we aspire to at The St. James Tearoom. Personally, I fear I will never be able to do either of them justice; their stories and their lives are so remarkable. But regardless, I’d like for you to get to know them.

   Shannon and Shanda are long time firefighters and paramedics who live here in Albuquerque. Shannon works with Sandoval County Fire Rescue, which services the entire county—3,700 square miles, which includes rivers, mountain ranges, and desert environments, large rural areas, small towns, and nine Pueblos!  The hazards needing her response in this large area include medical/trauma, house fires, commercial fires, wild land fires, search and rescue, vehicle extrication, rope rescue, water rescue, and confined space rescue.

Shannon also has the unique opportunity to serve with her canines in search and rescue missions (like the noble KT featured below, and rappelling down a cliff), and she also trains canines for these complicated operations. Her stories are filled with the exploits of her fabulous dogs, and her joy in partnering with them to serve the community.

Shanda serves in the northwest area of Albuquerque in the Fire department. This is a large response area within the city and includes the Westside Homeless Shelter.  On any given day she services just about any conceivable emergency that you could imagine here in the city. 

   Yet despite the threat of CoVid, both women continue to enter private homes or any given setting to treat emergencies of any kind, continuing to serve selflessly in the same way they have for many years.  

   “I like to think of my job this way: it’s sort of like being a soldier. They train you how to do your job and equip you with the tools to get it done. And yes, there are inherent dangers and risks that come with the job. When it comes time to go to battle…you don’t run. You get out there on the front lines and do what you were trained to do. Even in these times of uncertainty…there is still a job to do and I do it.” – Shanda

   Both these women love being paramedics and firefighters; they get to do some pretty exciting, heart-pounding things, which can be extremely dangerous. These women have grit, determination, courage, and hearts of love for their fellows, even if this means risk to themselves. They are a wonderful balance of Strength and Grace, as this quote shows… “Being a female firefighter of smaller stature I tend to get looks or judgments based on my size. When this happens I have a voice inside of me that always says ‘Oh yeah?! Just go ahead and watch me do it!’ I love what can be accomplished when you passionately commit to it. I love being a paramedic!  I always have.” – Shanda

   These two friends are exposed to severe dangers every work day, and their shifts are 48 hours long, where response needs to be immediate, regardless of the time of day or how many times they are called in a shift. Shanda says, “Rest? What’s rest? Ha ha…. Sleep is a precious commodity.” I’ve learned that the only things I can control in this life are my own actions, words, and beliefs” – Shanda

   They arrived in their present profession by separate routes, but these two friends are passionate about what they do. Shannon told me that the reason she is in this field is directly related to God’s guidance, and the heart of compassion He has given her. Shanda has always had a fascination with the human body and the way it works. Trauma has never bothered her, and she was exposed to a lot of it growing up in a motocross racing family.  

   Shannon and Shanda take joy in what they do, and their lives are filled with many joys. Shannon and her husband train search and rescue dogs. Shanda rides her motorcycles, and loves to sew. Her dog, whom she calls “my little gal-pal,” brings her joy. And of course, they find joy in their monthly habit of dressing up in fabulous attire and taking tea together at the tearoom.

   These inspiring women may not realize it, but they have given us so much joy through the years. How privileged we are to know them! Personally, they have always been beautiful examples of both Grace and Strength that we look to whenever we need some inspiration, or when times get hard here at the tearoom.

   Beautiful women! Beautiful lives! Inspiring examples!

   Yours for the return of Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence,

                                                                                  Mary Alice Higbie