It was a tragic night, just before the turn of the 20th century, when three young women whose names we do not know, died. Young Ida Scudder had come from America to be with her missionary parents for a while before going to college. She did not want to be a missionary like her parents. She disliked the poverty, dust and sickness that pervaded India’s villages. Her desire was to return to America and live the good life of an educated lady.
But during that holiday with her parents, something happened to change her life forever. One night, when her father was away tending to another very sick patient, three young husbands knocked on her door, one after another. They needed help for their wives who were struggling through childbirth. The men wanted a lady doctor only, and Ida not knowing what to do, sent the men away. The next morning, she heard that all three women had died.
This tragedy changed the course of Ida’s life. Throughout the next day, she experienced that nagging feeling deep in her heart. The frivolous life was not for her. She knew she had to go back to America to study medicine and train as a doctor so that she could come back to care for India’s much neglected poor, sick women.
When Dr Scudder returned to India, she did not come with a vision to start a health care centre or a medical college. She just saw the great need – to care for sick women and children – and then just offered herself wholly to meeting that need. Then she saw another need – one for trained women doctors – and she set out to meet that need. In doing so, she set an example, for those who followed in her footsteps – whether it was in caring for the sick, teaching and training future health care specialists, or striving for new knowledge.
Often, through a tragic event in our lives, we are called to minister to others. Like Dr Scudder, we may not want to, but are pushed into doing so. And years later, when we look back and reflect, we see the Hand of God leading us and connecting us with others who either need our help, or will journey with us. For some, inspiration or ‘calling’ comes from looking at someone else’s life. Many doctors and nurses have come to train at CMC hearing not only about Dr Scudder, but of the many who came later, who dedicated themselves into living a CMC life – one of personal sacrifice, other centeredness and hard work.
In today’s high – tech, fast paced world, is it still possible to be ‘called’ to be of service to others? To do the kind of work that no one else will? To be the kind of person who still practices values that have endured and sustained several generations?
Can you still feel ‘called’ if your job is to sit behind a desk for most of the day? Or to do the same tests every day? How can you keep from doing your job like a robot, and be of service to others? That is something to think about!
Dr Scudder’s life shows us that a calling is not a goal to be achieved, but a gift to be received. Receiving the gift graciously and with humility will tell us what to do with our lives. Once we identify what it is, if we work with passion and joy, even though our work may be boring and routine, ‘our lives will speak.’ Just as Dr Ida’s does a hundred years later.
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.