Who deserves or wants praise.

Getting old, if nothing else gives you time to think. Someone very generously nominated me for an Australian medal, and justifiable or not, it was granted to me. Twice I’ve been nominated as Australian of the Year, but I didn’t by a million miles deserve it and didn’t get it. Perhaps what I cherish most is a simple piece of paper which my medical students gave me when I was retiring.

So what am I really writing about?

We had the chance to listen in on zoom to a funeral this week. The funeral of an old lady who died at 96 in an old folks home, well cared for but at the end separated from her family because of the Covid precautions, except for daily visits by her husband. She did not get the disease. She had written a book about her experiences, which I had enjoyed, but the funeral service was a great reminder. Her husband outshone her in the eyes of the world in which they lived, or so it seemed to me. But as I listened to the service, heard the eulogies and then watched the slide show, I couldn’t help thinking that she deserved an AM much more than I do. As a child she only had an education up to grade three, but then as a young adult went on to become a triple certificated nurse. Became a nurse in the back blocks of Ethiopia, raised a family of four and still managed to achieve what I mention below. There are now tens of thousands of women emancipated and brought into real liberated life, in the Omo Valley region of Southern Ethiopia because of her work amongst women in the churches which were founded through the work of her husband and others. You could almost envisage a halo hovering above her coffin. She was a great lady.

Or I remember bringing a young down-country teenager who had never played a musical instrument, nor ever even seen a piano, into a room where a lady was playing beautifully. He listened in amazement, and when she left he went and sat down at the piano and played with the notes. Minutes later he was playing the tunes of the local songs he knew from his countryside background. Amazing – to me, who occasionally while singing accidently hits the correct note! What talent. I remember a visiting doctor friend saying that he wondered how many young geniuses were lying with bare bottoms up to the sun just watching a few animals.

Or now we have a young man (at least 25 years younger than me) living with us so that my wife and I can remain living on our little farm. He’s very naughty because he does lots of things that he doesn’t have the pieces of paper which the government want tending to confuse them for ability. He fences, builds roads, adds a patio, builds a small kitchen and replaces cracked walls inserting windows to bring light into a darkened area, puts in electrical points, answers all my questions that I need answered to keep my computer working, and many other things. But no one employs him because all of his Tertiary degrees (4) are seen as impractical. They are linguistic and theological and not seen as practical. His wife left him, so some denominations have taken away his licence to preach; others are so liberal that he cannot sign their bases of belief.

Among my slide sorting I have come across two pieces of paper which give me more joy than the several accolades which I have been given. I share them with you.

The undersigned were all final year medical students, who asked me in addition to teaching them medicine to give them some Bible teaching. You may be able to understand why sometimes I found their English a bit difficult.

They are more important than this…

There were a number of expatriates, mainly from India and the Philippines, but I was the only white person in the department of health and there were only two of us on staff in the University. Arba Mintch University had 39,000 students in 2018. The hierarchy of the University were very gracious to me but the words of a child patient and of 5 students mean more to me. I’m not ungrateful for the several go away functions and the gold medal, but a patient’s or a pupil’s thanks is worth so much more.

Dominic Cartier

2 thoughts on “Who deserves or wants praise.

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