The Doctor is in. What Rachael taught me.
In elementary school I was shown a lesson about compassion. I’ve never forgotten this event, but it was a long time before the light came on.
Sheridan Elementary School, Bloomington Illinois, early 1980’s. There was a new girl in school, her name was Rachael. Her family had less than we did, she never had new clothes and often they were not clean. She had no friends and ashamedly kids made fun of her. Despite all this, she was a really happy kid. While relieved that kids made fun of her and not me, I didn’t enter into this teasing. For sure not because I was such a good little boy, certainly I was not. I was afraid my dad would find out and I would be toast.
Dad did not tolerate us making fun of people for something they couldn’t help. “Not tolerate” is putting it lightly. He had Polio as a child and this left him with a deformed leg, perhaps he was the brunt of teasing or bullying, I’m not sure. But one thing I was sure of was that serious wrath would be unleashed and I didn’t want any part of it, had he discovered that I was making fun of this little girl. Dad’s unyielding view on this subject has been a gift for me that keeps on giving. Thanks dad!
That same year our school got a new principal, Dr. Garrett. What? A Doctor? That was very confusing for us fifth graders. After all, the school nurse seemed to be doing a great job. Who knows what goes on in the adult mind anyway. We all met Dr. Garrett who seemed normal enough, didn’t even wear a white coat. He liked us and we all really liked him, but having a doctor in school seemed “over the top”.
One day in the cafeteria Rachael collapsed on the floor, out like a light! Woah, us kids had no idea what to do. We couldn't help her because we were afraid to touch her.
Here's a metaphor to write home about. You will never help people that you are afraid to touch (and connect with), never ever!
The cafeteria ladies rushed over to her, someone said “go get Dr. Garrett”. Of course that made sense, now was for sure an appropriate time to have a doctor in the house. Apparently the adults were thinking ahead for once!
Dr. Garrett came running into the cafeteria, knelt down over Rachel, scooped her up in his arms just like she was his own little girl. Read that again. We could see right away that Dr. Garrett couldn’t possibly have cared less about her clothes, her family's economical/ social status or if she had any friends. Didn’t care about any of that, not at all! And how awesome that he didn’t even care in the least bit what all the “gawkers and talkers” were thinking (us kids)! He took her to the nurses office, called an ambulance and off she went to see yet another doctor. I never did know what happened to Rachael, she was soon back in school and this never happened again. Maybe she was distraught and collapsed because we didn't know how to befriend her! Shame on us for not seeing her value.
So, for the longest time I thought the “cafeteria” incident was the big part of this story. Guess what… it’s not. The bigger part, I promise you, is that Dr. Garrett cared about that little girl on the first day she came to school. He cared about her long before he so carefully picked her up off the floor. The cafeteria was just a place that shined a really bright light on the care and compassion he felt toward Rachael already.
Dr. Garrett understood Rachael’s value before she even came to our school. The Value message here is: I care about what I think about you my friend. Not what others think about you. You are amazing!
I don’t recall one single word Dr. Garrett ever spoke, but I’ve never forgotten what he did.