When I was five, instead of starting kindergarten, I got pneumonia. It was back in the days when there were no antibiotics, so my body just had to tough it out. It took some time; half a year, in fact. I was in bed, at home, all that time They wanted me to be watched 'round the clock, so a nurse had to be brought in, and they brought in a bed for her, which they put fifteen feet away from me, down against the wall where you came into the bedroom. I don't remember anything about her, except that she was always there whenever i woke up in the middle of the night; it was like having an angel watching over me. And the other thing I remember is she always wore white shoes.
I had two visitors every day without fail, around six o'clock. One visitor was a family my parents knew; they dropped off ice cream for me, every night. It was sweet and tasty, and soothed my perpetual sore throat. The other nightly visitor was my doctor, Dr. Leonard Nichol. I never went to his office; he always came to me. He was a doctor who made house calls, to heaven only knows how many people every evening. He was a wonderful soft-spoken man, who carried a doctor's black bag with him. He examined my lungs and heart every night. I liked him a lot. I liked him for his caring, and I liked him for his dry sense of humor. On one of his visits, we heard the sound of an airplane overhead. He paused, looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes, and said, "Only way I'll ever be in a plane accident is if one falls on top of me."
I have no idea how my parents paid for all this. We had no health insurance. Dad made a miserable wage. We never owned a home. (We rented.) We couldn't even afford a car. The way I figure it, the doctor had to be charging us virtually nothing for the house calls. He came so faithfully, day in and day out, for one reason and one reason only: I was sick and he was a doctor. That was his Calling.
It's hardly any wonder that as an adult my life has been devoted to helping people find their Calling. In fact, when I stop to think about it, that year when I was sick succeeded in defining all the themes of my adult life: a woman's caring, a sense of angels watching over us, on being dependable day after day, plus the body's struggle to heal and grow. (A real book title I have always loved: "The Body is the Hero".) With all this, no wonder I went into the Ministry, straight out of college, instead of chemical engineering. And yes, I made house calls as a minister. Faithfully. It felt good to pay back a little bit to the Universe for the kindness shown to me by Dr. Nichol.
Being sick at five years of age literallly changed my life.
And, incidentally, my heart still beats faster whenever I see white shoes.