At thirty years old Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was a rising star in Europe. He had made his mark in music, in theology, and in philosophy. But then he announced to the world that he was going to Africa as a jungle doctor. The world was shocked. His colleagues at the University and his other friends reproached him. Why do such a thing when you are already half way up the ladder? The waste of it!
The arguments were many. His biographer writes of the many arguments that were presented to him:
His organ teacher scolded him, “You are like a general going into the firing line with a rifle.”
“Why should you, with the intellectual world at your feet, bury yourself alive in the most neglected corner of the earth?”
“You are serving mankind where you are, doing something for which your whole background and education have fitted you. Is not scholarship service? Is not teaching service? Is not preaching service?”
“The black man of Central Africa isn’t your job. The white man of the western world is. Other men can work among the Africans, men without your gifts for scholarship and art.”
“Give lectures for the benefit of Africa, if you must,” a distinguished woman adjured him. “You can help them much more that way than by going to Africa yourself.”
Undaunted Schweitzer went about to carry out his intentions. And why was he forsaking all these opportunities to go to Africa? Here’s the reason as his biographer gives it. “He had heard of the wretchedness of the jungle peoples, the native diseases and the plagues brought by the European slave dealers and traders. How could the white man sleep nights with such torture under his window – the white man with doctors, hospitals and nurses always within reach? How callous was the white man’s world in the face of the torment of the black man’s, the torment which the white man had multiplied and in large part directly caused!
What a burden of debt lay on the white man, lay on himself, Albert Schweitzer, as one of the guilty race! He must repay what he could of his share by using the white man’s science to alleviate the black man’s pain. He would repay . . . With his life.”
Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.
Thanks to WITandWISDOM(tm) – June 30, 2000 [email protected]