As the first buildings came up for the hospital and the college, much of the finances for it were donated by ordinary American, English and European women, who attended church and mission meetings. On one such mission night, Dr Ida Scudder was speaking about her beloved Vellore where women and children from small villages had no access to medical care. The response to her speech that night was rather lukewarm. These were the war years and most people’s hearts beat for their young troop fighting in Europe. They would rather send money to their fallen soldiers than to India’s faraway villages.
Of all those gathered there, a young woman, Gertrude Dodd, caught the spark of Dr Scudder’s vision. She could not take her eyes off the lovely Ida Scudder, and heard every word of her passionate speech. At the end of the meeting,Gertrude realized that she had two assets that Ida Scudder did not have – access to a large amount of money and excellent administrative skills. She readily offered them both to her.
Dr Scudder was taken aback by such devotion. For many years they cultivated a special friendship. Gertrude wouldsend money as and when required, and Dr Scudder would write newsy detailed letters encouraging her through the work that was being done. “How I wish I could come and see the work for myself,” said Gertrude. “Why don’t you?” replied Dr Scudder and soon Gertrude Dodd came to Vellore with all her belongings.
Was there perhaps a moment when Gertrude wondered, “What am I doing here?”I don’t think so. She saw that her friend Ida was so overworked with the growing hospital and college. What could she do to help? She just looked aroundfor what neededdoing the most, and set about doing it quietly without any fuss. She took over the administrative and purchasing duties and relieved Dr Scudder of this big responsibility. Then she saw that the college bursar’s office needed systems put in place and she went on to do this. Finally she also took over Big Bungalow, Dr Scudder’s residence. At the end of a long and tiring day, Gertrude made sure that Dr Scudder came home to a beautifully maintained place, where she could relax with music, good food and company.
Apart from all the official work Gertrude Dodd did for which there was very little recognition, there was one role she played which perhaps was the most important one – she was Dr Scudder’s best friend – her soul mate – someone who understood her and supported her at all times. Perhaps it was this, for which she was sent all those years ago.
Today, a hundred years later, hardly anyone remembers Gertrude Dodd’s name or the many things she did for CMC. One of the enduring lessons we learn from her life is that one day we too will be nameless and faceless. No one will know or remember our sacrifices or hard work. Will that really matterin a hundred years time? Of course it won’t! What will matter, is that we too were calledduring a particular point in time to do what was most necessaryand like Gertrude Dodd, we too rose and chose to do it because we believed in Dr Scudder’s dream – of building the Kingdom of God here in Vellore. What will matter is whether or not we allowed ourselvesto catch the spark of passion thrown by Dr Scudder and carried it forward in our own way?
Usha Jesudasan is a writer who lives in Vellore and has had a close relationship with CMC for over 4 decades. For many years she wrote the weekly meditation Let’s Think Together for CMC. She is the author of several books. Her two bestselling books are I Will Lie Down In Peace ( the story of her young family’s confrontation with illness and death) and Two Journeys (the journeys two women have to take when cancer enters their lives). She is also the co – author of Living In Harmony, a graded series of Peace and Values Education books for children from Class 1-10.