If you ever run into Sam Ash at a party, be careful about describing your summer vacation.

“You’ll be standing around at a party, and people will be trading stories,” he explained. “They’ll say, ‘I spent the summer in Haiti nursing starving children from my teat’ and things like that. I would wait till everybody finished, and then say, ‘I went to the moon.’ It’s the ultimate trump card.”

But this junior in Trumbull College from Raleigh, N.C., has more than just wit. Ash works 20 hours a week in an ambulance as an EMT, holds two on-campus jobs, is in the process of becoming a certified flight trainer, and serves as a FOOT leader over the summer. In addition to helping others, Ash helped establish a program — the Yale Student Emergency Medical Service — that allows other students to do the same.

As I launched into my typical I-just-met-you tirade of questions, I found I had to pause and chastise Ash about the utter cheapness of using his third wish from a magic lamp to wish for more wishes. (This is a real issue, people, and it deserves more of our attention.)

“It is really cheap,” Ash said with a smile, “but if I were allowed to, I would do it.”

As an EMT, Ash is no stranger to pain and suffering, but he said he maintains an optimistic view of the world.

“It’s terrible that people suffer,” he said. “But I can’t imagine a world without suffering. Because lemons are so sour, lemonade is so sweet. Either that or all the sugar.”

I think this should be crocheted on a pillow somewhere.

Ash agreed and added it might be a good way to get girls to come back to his room. (“Hey, wanna come see my crocheted pillows? No, really.”)

Ash, an aspiring trauma surgeon, said his room may one day be located in the Bahamas, but admitted that the tropical destination “may be a function of the New Haven weather being so cold right now.”

But Ash said he does not mind braving the cold in order to work as an EMT.

“It’s a fun opportunity for students to be able to help others,” he said.

Ash helped bring Student Emergency Medical Services to Yale, setting up a semester-long course that would certify enrolled Yalies in emergency medical response and allow them to work on an ambulance in New Haven.

“There’s really a need on campus for this kind of thing,” Ash said.

Forty-seven students took the YSEMS course this semester.

Ash’s devotion to emergency medical care is even evident in his description of the tattoo he would get if forced under the needle.

“I’d get an ‘X’ on my chest,” he said, “with the writing, ‘For CPR, push here.'”

But Ash’s encounters with danger are not limited to his experiences in a New Haven ambulance. Ash had just finished telling a story about going ice fishing with his father when he casually mentioned that the two men were also in a plane crash.

“Our engine quit at 5,000 feet. The left wing was torn off,” Ash said in the calm tone of voice that most of us would order a hamburger and fries from Yankee Doodle.

While one might expect someone in Ash’s field to be preoccupied with questions of life and death, this EMT has a positive — and somewhat existential — outlook on the subject.

“I’d like people to remember me by remembering each other,” he said.

Ash said he would also like to remember what he did on several nights of his freshman year.

“It really bothers me sometimes,” he said.

But aside from those missing nights, Ash’s expression again slipped into a comfortable grin as he summarized his life in three short sentences:

“I was born. I tried to grow up. I’m still trying.” n