Most of the good deeds being done in the world today are small, and done in private.
By Ben Bull
Published April 30, 2007
When I was a student nurse back in Halifax, England, I spent four memorable weeks as a Surgeon's Assistant. I have many pleasant memories of this time. Wrapping up the poor old man's leg, after the Orthopedic surgeon has lopped it off during a double amputation. Emptying the bucket of foul smelling gook, the remnants of the day's prostate resections. It was a fine time.
Despite the goo and the gore, my overriding memory is the friendship I developed with my nurse colleague, Caroline. Caroline was a Nurse Orderly - or whatever they call the female equivalent of hospital dogsbody these days - and consequently, was routinely abused and belittled by the never-so-charming staff at the Royal Halifax Infirmary.
But she didn't care. She smiled through it all and she made me smile too. We laughed a lot. We laughed as I tried to draw a map of Italy along the old man's severed leg (well, it was no use to him, now was it?). We laughed again when Caroline filled me in on who was sleeping with whom, who said what to whom...
They were fun times, but in reality, Caroline had a hard life. As I got to know her over my short surgical stint, she confided in me about her Mum, sick with Cancer, and her Grandma, bed-ridden and completely dependent on her grand-daughter for the necessities of life.
Caroline looked after them both, and never complained. Every evening after work she would hurry on home and tend to her family. The next day she'd be smiling and laughing and doing her best to cheer me up as we braced ourselves for another session with 'the bucket' and whatever other morbid treats the Surgeon had in store for us that day.
It's not often you meet, or hear, of someone as selfless and worthy as Caroline, but I stumbled across another person of that calibre just the other day: June Callwood.
I'd never heard of June Callwood until her death hit the newsstands on April 14. As I saw the condolences and accolades come rolling over the presses in the days following her death, I think I came to know her pretty well.
One thing that stuck me about this woman, as I perused the Toronto Star's editorial and the Globe and Mail's obituary, was just how much she'd accomplished with her life, and the feisty attitude she'd adopted along the way.
"I have felt like an outsider all my life," she once said, echoing the thoughts of many of us who cultivate a social conscience and wonder why we bother.
Her humour too, shone through. "I'm a mess," she told the CBC's George Stromboulopoulos, referring to her rapidly advancing cancer in the last TV interview before her death. "I'm blowing up like a Goodyear blimp."
I get stuck sometimes, as I consider my own place in the world, my limited ability to get anything done, and I wonder what it is I should do to make a difference in the world. But it seems to me, as I read about June Callwood's astonishing list of life accomplishments, that she didn't do too much of that.
She didn't have the time.
"I'm a licensed pilot - I've flown an airplane. I swim in the ocean. I married the man I loved, (I have) four wonderful kids..." she told Stromboulopoulos, barely scraping the surface of her life's work. "I'm okay ... 82 years old ... Dust to dust is the way it ought to be."
The other thing that struck me about 'Aunty June' was how anonymous she was to me. Like I say, until she died, I'd never heard of her.
As I ploughed through this lady's never-ending resume I couldn't imagine how it was that she'd never caught my eye. Were her achievements not big enough for the world to care?
But then I thought of Caroline, and realized that most of the good deeds being done in the world today are small, and done in private - far away from the prying eyes of the press.
Mother Theresa once said, "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
I guess that's the way it has to be.
Raise The Hammer remembers humanitarian and lifelong activist, June Callwood. She made a difference.
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