Help a child and change the world

There is a way to step into the future and change it forever.  Help a child.

Teach a child.  Feed a child.  Hug a child.

On this website, back in 2010, I referred to an old clipping from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo in which a  medical doctor, Joe Bailey, is paying tribute to the man who influenced his life.

Dr. H. O. Leonard was the mentor of young Joe Bailey, who later became a medical doctor.  Here’s the story….

The Bailey family were farmers, Dr. Bailey says, but since his mother refused to live anywhere but in town, they lived in Coffeeville, Mississippi, population 600. They lived directly across the street from the town doctor, H. O. Leonard.

As far back as Joe Bailey remembers, he wanted to be a medical doctor. When he was 10, his father suggested that it was time for him to begin helping out on the farm. Young Joe took a deep breath and explained that if he was going to be a doctor, it would be better to take a job that would teach him about people.

The truth is, I really enjoyed the farm, but at age 10 I went to work in the local grocery store for 25 cents an hour (in 1957). I kept the job until I finished high school in 1965. By then I was making $1 an hour and the experiences of dealing with people those eight years have proven invaluable to me.

In the middle of that vocational experience, however, little Joe Bailey began his medical training. Here’s how it happened.

One day when Joe was eleven, he climbed the steps to Dr. Leonard’s office and knocked at the door. “Yes, Joe, what can I do for you?” said the elderly physician.

“Sir,” Joe said, “I want to be a doctor, and I wondered if I could help you in your office after school. I won’t get in your way. I just want to learn what to do.”

Dr. Leonard smiled, “I think that would be fine, Joe. Why don’t you come by after school tomorrow?”

As he walked down those stairs, young Joe Bailey had the feeling that life had just changed for him forever.

Dr. Henry O. Leonard was born in Coffeeville less than 13 years after the end of the Civil War. He finished medical school at the University of Tennessee in 1903 and he immediately began his practice. At the time he allowed me access to his life, he was 80 years old and I was 11.

The first thing the elderly physician taught his young protege was how to run blood glucose and urinalysis tests. Those were the only two tests available, Dr. Bailey remembers. They involved boiling the specimens and adding reagents. Soon he was running almost all of Dr. Leonard’s tests.

From time to time, the doctor asked and the patient would give permission for young Joe to observe tests being performed in the office. “Listen to this heart murmur,” he would say. “Look at this red ear.” “This is what appendicitis looks like.”

At the age of 13, Joe began driving for Dr. Leonard. Yep, you read that right. Dr. Bailey explains that country boys all learned to drive on tractors so this knowledge came earlier than otherwise. “He had a new Ford Falcon with automatic transmission, paid for with the $2 he charged for each office visit.”

After they closed the office, Joe and Dr. Leonard would make house calls. Anyone remember house calls?

One night, the Bailey parents were in bed early. From the kitchen window, Joe could see that Dr. Leonard was making his way from the house to the car. By the time he arrived at the automobile, Joe was there.

It had been raining hard for two days, and the small house which was our destination was cut off by a creek. I waded that creek with Dr. Leonard on my back, and by the light of a kerosene lantern, in a house with no electricity, I delivered my first baby. When my mother woke me up for school the next day, she never knew I’d been gone.

One morning at school when Joe was 15, the principal called him out of class. Dr. Leonard had been killed in a car accident that mornig.

The next Saturday, a stream of patients filed into the grocery store where Joe Bailey worked. Someone asked for a remedy for a bad cough. Another said his daughter had the earache and wondered if Joe would look at her.

One woman became angry when Joe refused to write her a prescription for blood pressure medicine. “You always wrote my prescriptions before!” she said. Joe had to remind her though that Dr. Leonard signed it.

At the conclusion of his column, Tupelo physician Joe Bailey, M.D., gives the lessons he learned from Dr. Leonard:

–Treat every patient as you would your own parents.

–There is no difference in a black human being and a white human being.

–Never do anything for money. Always do the right thing, and you will never lack or want.

–Above all, listen carefully and be kind.

The Bible has a lot to say about honoring old folks. Most of it is found in Proverbs. I’ll let you look them up. It’ll be worth the trouble.

Scripture also has much to say about helping children to become all they can in life.  I’m betting you already know how important it is.  Dr. Leonard, age 80–my present age, come to think of it!–could have excused himself for not having time for a kid.  But he was too smart for that.

Do you have time for a child?

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