This I Believe

Sharon - Indianapolis, Indiana
Entered on April 27, 2007

I believe that every human being has a worthy soul and should be treated with respect.

When I was a little girl, I lived in a tiny village in Honduras. My parents were medical missionaries who believed in serving others and teaching others to serve themselves. I learned a lot there. I learned that many, many people in this world have very little and that I am lucky to have had a loving family, plenty of food and a house with its generator and barrel of rainwater. My parents treated people as if there was a little bit of God in each one and they made no judgments about others’ beliefs. By the time I was 9 years old and back in Indianapolis, I’d learned that what would sustain me was not money but a belief in the value of other people — all people, everywhere, no matter their economic background, no matter their color, no matter their religious beliefs.

I grew up and became a pediatrician. I decided to create my own core place where everyone could come. I found out that it was kind of arrogant to dream of creating a private practice that balances the rich and the poor and strives to treat everyone equally. Generally, it’s hard to survive financially if your percentage of Medicaid patients is very high. But I am nothing if not stubborn. It meant spending 10 years struggling to make ends meet while many of the doctors I saw as successful were better off financially than I was. It meant wondering many many times whether I was poorer because I was a lower quality doctor or whether I was poorer because my dream meant seeing more poor people. But I did manage to create my core place where everyone could come — the rich and the poor, the blacks, whites, latinos, asians, russians and indians, the traditional families and the nontraditional, you name it, they could come and feel welcome.

I don’t really care that my house is a rental and my car is still battered from the hail storm last year. I don’t really care that I do my Continuing Medical Education conferences close to home because I have to pay for it myself. But I do care very much how my patients are treated. And I care very much when I am honored with the gratitude of an alternative family who feels accepted or complimented on my ability with someone else’s mother language. I care if an angry young adolescent talks to me and trusts me with his feelings. I care if a wealthy family drives from a high-income subdivision in the suburbs to see me, even though my building is kind of shabby and my parking lot should have been replaced 10 years ago. It sustains me to remember the important belief I learned in childhood –that every single person is worthy of respect and carries a bit of God in his soul.