A friend told me that, to her, Christianity is helping people, prayer, and thanking God.
1. Thanking God
My ex-wife’s niece was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, which is four holes in her heart. She had three surgeries at the Hospital Pediátrico William Soler, Cuba’s national children’s hospital. The surgeries were successful and she’s now a healthy and growing little girl.
After the last surgery, and before we married, my then-fiancée asked me for $100 so that she, her sister, and her little niece could take a bus twelve hours across Cuba to the El Cobre Basilica to thank the Virgin of Charity, Cuba’s patron saint. I sent her the money, plus I booked them a hotel room online, etc.
Then I went to Project C.U.R.E., an non-profit based in Denver that collects surplus medical equipment from American hospitals and ships it to developing countries. I donated $300 and they gave me 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of pediatric heart surgery supplies. I included a DVD of Something the Lord Made, a movie about the men, a white doctor and his black assistant, who developed the surgery for Tetralogy of Fallot in the 1930s and 1940s, which was the first open heart surgery.
Frontier Airlines checked the box free as humanitarian aid. The customs officials in Havana had never seen a tourist bring in perhaps $100,000 of medical supplies, and they spent hours bringing in supervisors and looking for forms. Finally we agreed that I would leave the box at the customs office and a cardiologist from the hospital would pick it up. I told my fiancée, “You thank the Virgin of Charity. I’ll thank the Cuban doctors.”
2. Helping People
Adam Grant is a professor of psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His 2013 book Give and Take presents his research into givers and takers. He found that the most successful people and the least successful people are givers. (Takers are in the middle.) The difference between successful and unsuccessful givers is that successful givers are selective about whom they help. In contrast, people who help everyone become overwhelmed and can’t take care of themselves.
Two weeks ago a student in Kosovo who stutters asked to buy one of my company’s stuttering therapy devices. Our lowest priced model is $300, and shipping to Kosovo is $200. He doesn’t have any money. Last week a man from Serbia asked to buy the same device for his sister-in-law, a speech language pathologist in Belgrade. The man was in Boston but was flying back to Serbia at the end of the week. I asked if he could take two devices in his suitcase, he said yes. A few months ago a retired speech language pathologist returned an old device to me, asking that I donate it to someone who needed it. I refurbished the device and shipped it with the second device to Boston. Now all the student has to do is take the bus six hours to Belgrade to get his device, and a speech therapy session.
Christianity tells us to help other people but it doesn’t tell us how to differentiate between whom we should help and whom we shouldn’t help. Helping the right people will make your life better, but “being a Christian” and helping everyone will ruin your life.
I don’t pray. Instead I use the power of negative thinking. I control the universe with my mind. Whatever I expect will happen, never happens. When I make plans, the plans go astray. I expect and plan for the worst, and I’m pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn’t happen.
Last month (October) our vet was sure that my 14-year-old dog had prostate cancer, and referred us to an oncologist. What’s the worst that could happen? Putting my dog down in January and then digging his frozen grave. I can’t stop cancer but I can at least dig his grave while the weather is good.
My dog’s favorite place is a big meadow with elk and cougars, owned by our friends. They agreed to let me dig his grave. When I told other friends my plans, they wanted to help. So three friends and I dug his grave while my dog spent two hours roaming the meadow. The weather was beautiful and everyone had fun.