Advent devotion: The definition
This fall marked the passing of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. Rep. Cummings was born a poor black son of sharecroppers in 1951, who went on to become an attorney and politician. Starting at age 11, he dedicated himself to desegregation and civil rights. He served his Baltimore constituents, many of whom lived in poverty, for nearly 25 years. An example of morality and service, Rep. Cummings followed his true north star. I did not have the pleasure of meeting him but was always moved by his speeches and resolve. Listening to him led me to want to proceed with more integrity and clarity of purpose in my own life.
Another great man I did have the pleasure of knowing was my childhood doctor, Dr. Clifford C. Smith. Dr. Smith was born in 1925 in Waterloo, Iowa. During his time in the military, he was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American military pilots during World War II. He went on receive his medical degree and courageously set up shop in a very white rural Iowa town in 1962. Upon applying for an initial loan, he was told he would need 25 co-signers. He persevered, and went on to treat each patient with respect, compassion, and brilliant decision-making. He developed a thriving clinic and practiced for 40 years in a modest office. He was recognized for his decades of steady devotion by being named the National Rural Health Practitioner of the Year in 1998. At the time of his death, the visitation line stretched several blocks.
Both of these men overcame great obstacles in life – obstacles I can only imagine. And each became the very definition of light and life. Each had within him a beautiful and unbreakable spirit. Each devoted his life to serving those around him and shared in the great highs and lows of his community.
Each of us faces our own obstacles. Yours may be a child with a fever or a parent with a terminal illness. Or, it could be the baby blues or major depressive disorder, a stressful schedule or overwhelming loneliness. May you call upon your own inner light and nurture it. May that light guide you to bring a brighter version of yourself to your home, your family, and greater circle. May you be the beacon of light and life for someone else today.
Beth Repp is an ophthalmologist at Eye Surgeons Associates. She lives in Davenport with her husband and daughter.