Below the surface, we are all one

As I drove to Mercy Medical Center to see Dr. Sabundayo (who wins my Albert Schweitzer award for kindness), I thought of Uncle Lionel. Actually, he wasn’t my uncle, but his last name was spelled the same as mine!

Back in the 1980s, I was introduced to the Breighner family of Dundalk by Father Lou Martin. The family consisted of the mother, Sally, her daughter, Dianne, and Uncle Lionel. The three of us had some fierce pinochle games! Dianne was a widow with two sons, Vince and Brian, and Diane would later marry the great Joe Pavlek and move to Fallston.

What reminded me of Uncle Lionel was the gleaming new structure that is the new Mercy Medical Center. Uncle Lionel had been one of the workers on the “old” Mercy Hospital. He was a typical guy, few words and hard work, but now and then he would let his pride show in having been a part of building the hospital.

He would tell us that he was always the first one on the site every morning, and would put the coffee on for the rest of the guys. He never much talked about what precisely he did, but he did tell of one rescue story.

One of the new workers had suddenly frozen with fright on one of the girders, and Uncle Lionel gently talked him across the girder and back to safety. It’s so easy to take for granted how brave these workers are.

I mention all of this because buildings are appropriately named for their major donors. Thank God for them and their generosity, yet little mention is ever made of the men (and women) who actually worked on them. We know the names of a few pharaohs and the pyramids. But we don’t know the name of a single worker on the pyramids (many, if not most, would have been slaves).

Life is like that, isn’t it? We travel past skyscrapers and never think of those who built them. And yet it is that average day worker in every field who makes the world go round. Then we realize that there are no average people – just real people made in God’s image and likeness. When we forget that, we lose some of the magic of life. When we remember that, life takes on a sacred quality.

Two quotes come to my mind. The first is from John Ruskin, who wrote: “The first test of a truly great person is his or her humility. Truly great people have a feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them. And they see something divine in every other person, and are endlessly, incredibly merciful.”

Despite all the obvious divisions in humanity, we really all are one. As we Christians are conscious of all being part of the Body of Christ, so we are reminded that all of us humans are one in God. We have many differences on the surface, but below the surface we are all one. To remember that is what transforms us and our attitude to everyone around us.

Which leads to the second quote. Dr. Paul had sent me to the blood lab at Mercy. On the wall was a quote from Sister Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. It read simply, “In care of the sick, great tenderness above all else!”

Isn’t that a lovely thought? No, not a new thought, but a timeless thought. Medicine has become so technical today that it’s easy to lose sight of the uniqueness of every patient and every medical provider. Yet, what heals people today is the same thing that healed them thousands of years ago – great kindness.

As we conquer one strain of bacteria a stronger strain shows up. As we defeat one disease another appears. As we conquer one malady, another seems to come around. In no way am I depreciating medical care and technology. Miracles of healing are worked every day that could not have been dreamed of even a few years ago.

Yet, love is still one size fits all.

Love heals. And love heals even when there is no physical healing possible. Ignorance and fear lead us to see each other as enemies or terrorists. Love sees the presence of God in every person. Love sees only God – in ourselves, in each other, and all around us.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.