Is it futile to hope for change? or Is resistance to change futile?
The two men stood elbow to elbow with a single focus on the operating table-two men who could not share the same lunch table in the Hopkins cafeteria.
This is a line from a documentary about the Blalock/Taussig Shunt: about blue babies, discrimination and three dedicated people: Dr. Alfred Blalock, A white privileged brilliant surgeon and Dr. Vivien Thomas, his black high-school educated assistant, and Dr. Helen Taussig, a near deaf woman. These three dedicated pioneers deveolped modern heart surgery procedures. The movie “Something the Lord Made” produced by HBO films has to be one of the most intriguing and moving movies I have seen for a while.
A young black man goes to work for a disillusioned young white surgeon, -- a surgeon who did not get the residency he wanted and who had a brush with death in 1929. In the year the movie opens, 1930, the world was in chaos – the banks failing and jobs hard to come by. Vivien Thomas’ hopes are crushed before they have even chance to flower. He takes a position at Vanderbilt University’s Medical School and become the assistant of Dr. Alfred Blalock. He never obtains a degree – or the recognition he deserves. After many years of discrimination, he leaves to sell antacids to black doctors. He comes to an epiphany – he could do the work he loves and receive no credit or be denied the satisfaction of doing useful, meaningful work. He goes back to work for Dr. Blalock knowing that he would never be a surgeon himself – at least not for humans.
The movie resonated with me. I understand those complex emotions. Funny I should see this movie the week I have these same emotions swirling around in me. These little blue babies would not have been offered any relief without all three of these players around the table – the bitter white man, the black man who could not even enter the front door of Johns Hopkins and the deaf white woman. It took all three to fix a broken heart. Without all three, these damaged hearts, which typically were too “two sizes too small,” received an opportunity to grow – which offered an opportunity for the entire body to grow. It took all three to offer life.
There are persons who gather around the table today. Some are broken people themselves. Some will never have their recognition; some will never themselves be heard. But it takes us all to bring the body to growth. And there is grace to be found in that.
To quote and article in The Dome from Johns Hopkin, said by Andrea Kalin, the author of the PBS special “Partners of the Heart”
I could see Vivien over Blalock's shoulder, the two in a rhythm no one else could follow, in sync with an almost unwritten code. I wanted to describe and show this partnership-without dictating it. Still, the irony of the day just slaps you in the face. Vivien knew he played a valuable role. Was he bitter? No. Was there pain, was there disappointment? Yes.
I suppose the task is to not become bitter. Yes, women have been in the ministry for 50 years. Yes, we have come a long way. Is the treatment of women in the UMC always fair? Will it ever be completely, across the board fair? I don’t know. Is resistance futile? Will change, true change, come?