He has told me the same stories year after year, word for word. I don’t mind hearing them; honestly, I could listen to his life stories every day and be completely interested. When he and I sit in his office filled with hundreds of books, old records, tapes, pictures, and magazines that have been hoarded for over fifty years, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from him. But only recently, after years of dissecting his stories, I came to the conclusion that my grandfather has spent the better majority of his eighty-three years on Earth committed to helping others.
He enlisted in the United States Army shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. However, he had already committed to the pre-medical program at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. At that time, the military was in need of doctors and ordered him to attend school and finish his medical degree. My grandfather finished his undergraduate work and medical school in a mere five years, a task that he achieved by attending classes all through each of the summers and every Saturday. The war ended in 1945, and at the young age of twenty-four, he was a practicing doctor.
I can recite almost all of his stories by heart. I know that his college tuition in 1942 was $100 per semester and that he hitch-hiked to class everyday throughout college. I know that when the Korean War broke out, my grandfather re-enlisted in the military because he felt like he owed something to his country, and when stationed in Alaska, he never complained. Of all of his accomplishments, what I am most proud of though is that since the age of twenty-four, my grandfather has never refused medical service to anyone, whether he or she could pay or not. He refused to use collection agencies or ban certain patients from returning.
My grandfather has instilled in me the desire to be selfless. As he would say, being selfless is an obligation for a young Christian man. From him, I’ve learned that there is an immense difference between helping people in order to be noticed by others and helping people because it is the right thing to do, whether I am recognized or not. These lessons have value to me because they come from a real-life, knowledgeable, and highly respected man, who happens to be my grandfather.
His attitude towards others is real. Even retired at eighty-three years old, he welcomes patients to his home for check-ups for minor problems. In my hometown, strangers will stop me on the street, in grocery stores, at church, and even on the golf course to tell me about how caring and meaningful my grandfather has been in their lives. At times, men will tell me about how he replaced their hips or reconstructed their knee problems. Others will attribute their ability to walk to my grandfather. In these moments, I could not be more proud of him and the lessons about selflessness he has taught me, through his example, over the last twenty years of my life.
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