I met an incredible woman earlier this month on my trip East. Her name is Melissa, and she is a nearly 90 year-old physician.
Melissa was raised by her mother and aunt and, as I remember her story, she was one of nine children. In the early 1960’s, she attended Howard University and decided she wished to help others. She told her family she was entering medical school, and they pledged to help her in any way possible, a large vote of confidence as there was no extra money. She went on to graduate and complete her residency in internal medicine.
Melissa is the great-granddaughter of a slave. She has heard many stories about the tragedies of the era and relates how her grandfather was separated for years, beginning at the age of only three, from his mother after emancipation.
It took her a while to trust me because hearing my accent gave her a sense of fear. After we began visiting and sharing our thoughts, she realized I saw her as a human being, created by God, with no fundamental differences. We shared the belief that all deserve to be accepted as a unique creation, loving one another unconditionally.
Melissa asked for my phone number as we parted, telling me she had found a new friend and wanted to stay in touch. Much to my surprise and delight, she called me last Monday. She had just finished her day at the methadone clinic that she runs and was on her way to the office to see her private patients. An amazing woman, she has never stopped working to help the underserved of her New York City. My life is enriched by knowing and being embraced by her grace and dignity.