The applause faded. Carole Ann twisted the gold chain that hung around her neck as her eyes followed the Master of Ceremonies. The man stepped to the podium.
“Ladies and gentleman, as you have seen from viewing this remarkable documentary, our guest speaker for the Twentieth Annual Children’s Hospital Fundraiser is a doctor whom has accomplished significant work both here and abroad. She is a tremendous credit to her profession and we are honored to have her speak. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Carole Patrick.”
Carole Ann released her chain as she rose and moved across the stage. She paused to shake the MC’s hand before nodding to the audience of more than two thousand who stood in her honor.
“Thank you ladies and gentleman for your warm welcome. It was an honor for me to receive the invitation to speak at this event.”
Carole Ann smoothed her notes on the stand before her, placed both palms over them and did not look at the handwritten sheets again.
“As many of you know, I have recently returned from my annual trip to the remote villages of Central Africa. Those close to the project are familiar with my primary focus on AIDS. What very few people are aware of as yet, is the side trip I was guided on while there.”
Carole Ann closed her eyes, the images flashing bright in her vision. When she looked again at the audience, Carole Ann knew every ear in the hall had tuned to her voice.
“An old friend visited me while I was working in one of the tiny village clinics. He is a native and was one of my first African patients. He now preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
An undercurrent swept through the hall. A faceless voice echoed through Carole Ann’s being, “leave your religion at the door.”
But once the story began, it could not be stopped. It poured itself out from the deepest wells of Carole Ann’s heart.
“His name is Samanya, but he likes us to call him Sam. Sam asked me to go to the village where he had spent the previous six months. He wanted me to see something I had never witnessed before in Africa.”
Carole Ann sipped from her glass of water as she connected with the eyes of those sitting onstage to her right. She continued.
“Sam guided me to an isolated place, where he said very few natives would go. I soon discovered why. It was a leper colony. In a part of the world where scientific knowledge of this disease is virtually nonexistent, these people are shunned at the highest degree. Sam became the first in many years to walk through their village and eat in their homes. For that, they received him and the One who sent him.”
Carole Ann paused, and then asked, “Could the house lights be turned up please?” Her eyes swept the packed hall fairly sparkling with jewels.
“I walked down the trail to the water well with one of the leper children and I caught my finger on a thorn. “Ow!” I said. The child looked at me and purposely pricked his own finger on the thorn. He looked from his bleeding finger to me, and that is when I felt God leading me in a new direction.
“As some of you may know, one of the great dangers of leprosy is the inability to feel pain. “Ow”, or any such expression of pain, is no longer in that child’s vocabulary. He lives in a body that has no sensations of pain, yet has such great suffering.
“Sam asked for my help and I want to ask for yours tonight; help in supporting these villages, these leper colonies, the ones the world has forgotten.”
Carole Ann breathed in and smiled. “One more thing, something I myself have vowed to do. The next time you stub your toe on the coffee table or smash your thumb with a hammer, let your cry of “Ow!” be a reminder to say a prayer for this little one and his people.”
Carole Ann crumpled her notes in one hand. “Thank you and goodnight.” Turning from the podium, the sound of her high heels filled the hall.
A single clap began a waterfall of sound that rose to deafening heights.
Turning to the audience, Carole Ann smiled and covered her ears with her hands. Then she mouthed the word that would become her legacy – “OW!”
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