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Fixin' Healthcare

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) and Mother Mary Teresa (1910-1997)

The lives of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Mother Mary Teresa have been inspirations to countless people throughout the world. Their examples touched lives and stimulated people across all manner of human boundaries. Each of them stands on their own but viewed together they offer instructive insight to different routes by which service to the needy has common meaning for everyone.

The forthcoming book of Mother Teresa's letters to her superiors and confessors in the Catholic Church has brought renewed attention to her life. The publicity attracted my attention and this led to a desire to learn more about her life and what she accomplished. In the process, I began also to contemplate the life of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

The comparisons and contrasts between the two highlight how they lived and what they accomplished. Though their paths through life were very different, they were remarkably similar in many ways. Two long lives overlapping in time that served the poor, sick and disabled. Both received considerable, high profile recognition while they were alive. In the process they inspired many people and changed lives.

Inspiration, motivation and the ability to stimulate others are subjects of endless curiosity because they are at the core of human behavior. People prize examples of inspiration and motivation that produce noble deeds and healthy, productive lives. But, the source and nature of inspiration and motivation are difficult to know. To the extent that anyone attempts to know the motivation and mind of another, there will be some aspect of guessing much that is is unknown.

Regardless of the inspiration and motivation in the mind of another, it is their deeds that inspire and stimulate those around them. Words, too, have the capability to inspire and stimulate but deeds give words credibility and heightened capability. Whether it is for verification or stimulation, people need examples throughout the course of their lives. Perhaps it is in the choice of examples where the basis for optimum mental and physical health of a society resides.

People who achieve widespread public attention hardly ever escape criticism or controversy. Close scrutiny of behavior reveals details that lead to judgments. Public figures and those who become public figures by pursuing ideas and tasks different from the accepted norm are judged frequently on what they say, what they write, what they do and what others say about them. That is not to say all such judgments are accurate or justified.

Dr. Schweitzer and Mother Teresa suffered hardships and were subjected to criticism during their lives. Both possessed the internal strength to persist in their efforts. How, then, does anyone know when to persist or change in the face of criticism? That is a timeless question. The search for timeless examples that create and sustain an ethical basis to address timeless questions is a reason to review any life.

There is much to learn from the life and work of Dr. Schweitzer and Mother Teresa. This review is undertaken to learn whether comparisons and contrasts between their lives can increase the meaning of our lives. If nothing more, the effort renews acquaintance with these remarkable people. Whatever deficiencies are noted when this effort is complete will be overcome if the reader is stimulated to pursue their own course of inquiry.

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