Act of kindness comes full circle

Published 2:30 pm Saturday, September 26, 2009

My father was a Methodist minister. That meant that, as a child, I was at the church pretty much any time the doors opened. I can’t say I was especially enthusiastic about that, and my absence of enthusiasm was even more pronounced when being there involved being confined to a pew.

But I did look forward to one element of my father’s sermons. He called them illustrations. In an earlier day they might have been called parables, I think.

I came across one of those the other day and, for some reason, feel compelled to share it with you. Perhaps it will hold a message of some sort for you.

Here it is:

Dr. Stephen Jennings was exhausted as usual after his fourth 14-hour-plus day at the hospital. A noted surgeon, Dr. Jennings had nothing on his mind except an upcoming ski trip to Colorado where he could set aside some of the intensity of his profession and perhaps catch up on some much needed rest.

Exiting the building and making his way to the parking area, he noticed an elderly woman seemingly wretched in pain trying desperately to make her way from her car to the hospital entrance.

Instinctively, Dr. Jennings rushed toward her yelling into the night for someone to fetch a wheelchair. As he helped her to the main entrance, a glance to her soft face almost stopped him in his tracks. “Was it really her?” he wondered. His mind raced.

Taking charge, the doctor ordered his patient to be taken to Examination Room 5. And with a renewed burst of energy, Dr. Jennings set about doing what he did best by examining the woman and gathering vital information.

“This patient’s appendix has ruptured. Take her to the OR. Gather a team. I’ll scrub up,” he announced boldly.

Following the successful surgery, a day or two later, Dr. Jennings paid a visit to his patient who was recuperating. The older woman noticed his name tag immediately and smiled. “They told me you were the one who helped me into the hospital and performed my surgery. You saved my life,” she said graciously.

“And you’re Sadie Bennett, but you don’t remember me, do you?” the doctor replied somewhat rhetorically.

“Well I’ll never forget you”, he said. “When I was barely 15, I had run away from home and was lost in the city. Alone, tired and afraid I found myself sitting on the highway literally pondering whether to throw myself under the next 18-wheeler that came along. Then out of nowhere, you appeared. Do you remember?” he asked.

“You took me to your home and told me to try to work out my issues with my Dad, and then you gave me money if I promised to use it for bus fare home. I have never forgotten you, Mrs. Bennett”, he said. “It was you who saved my life.”

Surely, it is true that what goes around comes around. Our actions today may have an impact on others in ways we might never have imagined.

Someone once wrote, “No act of kindness is ever wasted.” It’s when we reach out to others; when we lend a helping hand; when we decide to take a risk on someone else’s behalf do we find our lives fulfilled in such immeasurable and rewarding ways.

Dr. Stephen Jennings saved the life of a woman who had made such a difference in his life so many years before. Her kindness toward him had come full circle. And so it goes.

David Sullens is president of Roanoke-Chowan Publications LLC and publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald and the Gates County Index.