My oldest brother was to be a lawyer. My next brother was to be a doctor. My mother wanted me to enter the ministry. I wanted to be a businessman. “Don’t we need to have people who will do what the preachers say, as well as to have preachers?” I asked of my mother. And so was set the pattern of my life, to try to be a dedicated layman.
At 19, while at college, I developed Mastoiditis. An operation was imperative. My heart was diagnosed as too weak to stand an anesthetic. I was offered the choice of a slow death by blood poisoning without any operation, or a sure but quiet passing under ether. “When do we operate?” I asked, sure that I would rather go that way but certain in my heart that I would come through all right.
When I awoke from the operation, I was not surprised. But from that time on, I had a new concept. My life no longer was mine alone. It was a gift now of time. Every new day I lived was that much gained and that much to answer for as to what I had done with my borrowed time. I searched for the thing to which I could devote myself as being the way I could best serve the greatest number of people. I believe that I had found it in the organization of a people’s bank, one that would serve the largest possible number of customers at whatever economic level.
Six months after the bank was opened, I developed tuberculosis. I was sent away to the mountains to die, and for a time I felt sure that the doctors were right. My wife never let me know she agreed with the verdict. She never quavered at the prospect of soon becoming both a mother and a widow. Could I let her down? My doctor finally said, “Medicine has done all it can for you. If you have any faith and any courage, any religion and any loyalty, now is the time to show it.”
I was angry. I was being accused of cowardice, faithlessness, disloyalty, and being possessed of no basic religious belief. “You take care of the medicine,” I replied. “I’ll take care of my spiritual life.” And then I began to take inventory. I couldn’t run out on my wife and expected child. I did have courage and a deep faith. If I can get well, I will get well, I resolved in my heart. In due course, I was back at work with an artificially collapsed lung. Again, I was on borrowed time.
Twenty years ago, the last vestige of tuberculosis was removed by a very able doctor, to whom I am, of course, indebted for those subsequent years of my life. Also, I am indebted to my wife and to other doctors who have seen to my recovery. In fact, there are so many people to whom I am indebted so much, that there is not time to repay all I owe, and all of these experiences have led me to a faith where I can say this.
This I believe. There is a God to whom I can turn, as a child does toward a father, and offer myself to be of use and service as best the capacities with which He has endowed me will permit. If I seek to find the way He would have things go, and not try to make Him serve my ends, I can succeed in my endeavor. Whatever years yet are permitted to me, I believe I should offer to serve purposes other than my own.
The degree by which I fail to live up to those beliefs is not the point. The major factor is that I believe in trying. The major result has been great happiness and satisfaction.