Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pride of comparison

A few years ago, an old hospital in a small, midwestern town needed to expand. Plans were drawn for a new facility with modern equipment. The little hospital served everyone in town, plus a large community of Amish living on farms outside town. The hospital charter required that one of the directors always be Amish.

As work began, Amish craftsmen donated time and labor to build lovely furniture for the lobby. They also built elaborate custom cabinetry for the obstetrical wing. Each birthing room looked like a luxury hotel suite until cabinets were opened to reveal the latest medical equipment. The Amish took great pride in this work, since they believe work is a form of worship. But they took no pride in themselves. They believe no man is better than another in the eyes of God, and personal pride is a sin.

Shortly before the new hospital was about to open, a cash shortfall was discovered. There was no money to pay for a piece of costly equipment for the emergency room. The administrator informed the board, and the Amish member promised to "do what he could." What happened next surprised everyone.

About a week after the need was known, an Amish farmer approached the hospital on a horse-drawn farm wagon carrying bulging potato sacks. Instead of parking in the lot, he drove to the front door. He unloaded the sacks and carried them to the administrator's office. After the last sack was inside, he left without comment.

When staff began opening the sacks, they didn't find any potatoes, but only cash, cash and more cash. It took time to tally it all up. The sacks contained $80,000.00 -- all in cash.

But why cash? Why didn't the Amish who were well-to-do just write checks? Because this might set them apart as "better" than their neighbors who made smaller donations. By using only cash, they eliminated the pride of comparison. The administrator told me his staff will never forget that lesson.

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