What does leprosy have to do with teaching students?
Paul Brand is famous for finding the cause and treatments for leprosy. This non-fatal disease has long been the most misunderstood and caused people who were not contagious to die horrible deaths of neglect and starvation.
Brand was misunderstood and criticized by his peers for trying to help people who were pariahs in India — they had no money and could not pay. There was no profit and no one cared for these people. In the book, Ten Fingers for God: The Life and Work of Dr. Paul Brand by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Wilson says:
“there were time during those first years when Paul was sorely tempted to yield to their reasonable arguments.”
During that time, Dr. Brand reached a low because these lepers were so destitute that they would often sabotage their body's efforts at healing so they could continue to be fed, taken care of, and protected from the world. One time he actually saw a patient removing his bandages and scratch his sores to make them worse.
“His high hopes were dashed. The lackluster faces, the dead hands, the inert bodies preempting precious beds…Why rake up such refuse from the dregs of human life when there were hundreds who would respond eagerly to the energies you had to give?”
A young Hindu associate once asked him:
“Dr Brand…do you really think it is worth it?”
No! The word sprang to Paul's lips. He almost spoke it. But something silenced it. Perhaps it was the memory of reawakening life in the eyes of Krishnamurthy. [His first patient.] Or an older memory of three figures turning hopelessly back down a steep mountain path. Or no memory at all, but that strange imperative which compels some men to blaze lonely and unpopular trails which will be the highways of tomorrow.
“Yes,” he replied firmly.” (P 104)
Though I work in a different field, I too have seen reawakening life in the eyes of a student with a diagnosed and accomodated learning disability as he begins to believe in himself again. I have seen the hopeless student give up. I have seen students sabotage their grades in an effort to gain the attention they crave.
But it is the imperative and the belief that what I do is important that keeps me going. What I teach is important.
Somehow, I too feel that in some small way I too am blazing a lonely and unpopular trail which will be the highways of tomorrow.
Edu-bloggers keep on the trail.
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