Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BEAT AROUND THE BUSH (05/25/17)
- TITLE: Sirloin or Sawdust?
By Donna Powers
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My father’s voice had startled me out of my reverie and I took a bite of my burger. “Thanks, dad. It’s fine.”
But it wasn’t. As far as I was concerned, I may as well have been eating sawdust. I couldn’t taste a thing, and my mind was jammed with thoughts I didn’t dare voice. I needed to talk to Dad, and I dreaded that conversation.
Dad was enjoying his dinner. It looked like steak, but he always ordered steak. All Dad’s choices were as predictable as his dinner selection. His choices included what his children chose as a profession. That included my brothers and sisters: Doctors James, Joseph, and Joyce Crandall.. Medicine is our family tradition, going back three generations.
I’d recently finished medical school, and will soon be Dr. John Crandall. But I knew the next step in my career wouldn’t please my father.
Throughout dinner, I’d tried to redirect his attention to the program we’d just seen at church: a presentation from our summer mission team. My father had seemed to pay scant attention to it, and hadn’t responded to my attempts to discuss it during dinner.
“Dad,” I began again, “I want to talk about the mission project,”
“Oh, Johnny, let’s not talk about that anymore,” he grimaced. “I know you felt obligated to go. I was upset at first because it delayed your surgical residency. But those slides convinced me that mission is doing fine work over there, and now I’m proud you went.
“Really?” I was surprised.
“Well, of course, son. It’s important for us to do our bit for the less fortunate. But I’m glad you’re back home. Your residency at Cleveland Clinic starts next month, and you’ll soon be part of our family tradition.”
His eyes shone with enthusiasm. I hated to disappoint him, but…
I tried again. “Speaking of family: Uncle Mark and Aunt Nancy are really making a big impact over there in Liberia.”
His enthusiasm dimmed. “Please, don’t remind me. My brother and his Goody Two-shoes wife can waste their lives in Africa if they must, but you had the sense to come home and prepare for your real work.”
I couldn’t let that stand. “Dad, they’re not wasting their lives. They’re making progress out there, and helping people who don’t have any other access to health care.”
“Well, if you say so. God bless them. But I’m glad you got that nonsense out of your system. Now let’s enjoy our dinner and talk about Cleveland.”
Now was the time, but I still couldn’t say the words. “Look, Dad. What if I don’t take the residency in Cleveland?”
“Well, of course you’re going to Cleveland, son… unless… You’ve heard from Hopkins? That would be …”
“No, Dad. I didn’t hear from Hopkins.”
“Well, where? Not many residencies can compare with Cleveland or Hopkins.”
“Dad…I’ve turned down my residency offer.”
I had his attention now. He stared at me with astonishment. “You did what?”
All my words ran together: “I’mgoingbacktothemissiontoworkwithUncleMark,” I said.
Dad’s face paled and his eyes widened. “Please repeat that. I can’t believe my ears.”
I swallowed, and that sawdust taste was lining my mouth. “I’m going to join Uncle Mark at the Camphor mission. Over the summer, I felt God calling me to be part of God’s work in Liberia.”
“So that’s what you’ve been trying to tell me,” he said, with measured tones.
“Yes, Dad.” Now that I’d said the words, my fears began to dissipate.
“Oh, John. Why would you do this? You’d be set for life with a residency at Cleveland Clinic. Surely God wouldn’t ask you to squander an opportunity like that for some remote wasteland in Liberia.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. I just don’t see it that way.”
“What a loss.” He shook his head, and turned from me. “I guess our family tradition means nothing to you.” He stood and then trudged sadly from of the restaurant.
I shut my eyes in sorrow, but not regret. I know how important family tradition is to Dad, but I could think only of another family tradition: a village in Liberia where four generations had seen their infants die from preventable diseases. And then I thought of our new vaccination clinic and how that tragic family tradition was now changing, for the glory of God.
And, as much as I longed to console my earthly father, I know Whose family tradition I’ve been called to honor.
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