A Much More Meaningful Life

A Much More Meaningful Life

Late one night, we were riding in a rickety van back from one of the village clinics in East Asia. Sharon*, one of our Family Practice Residents-in-training, turned to me and said, “Ben*, I finally understand why you left your medical work in the United States and came to East Asia to teach us family medicine and to serve the people here.”

“Really?” I said, “What are you thinking?”

“Well,” she replied, “the other day, one of my foreign friends gave me a membership card to one of the new fitness centers in our city. When I went there, I found that it was very fancy. There was also a lot of exercise equipment with which I was unfamiliar. I asked the manager of the fitness center if he could explain the various pieces of equipment. I asked him, ‘What is this?’”

Then he said, “This is an exercise bike. When you get up on the bike and pedal, there’s a fan that will blow in your face and you’ll feel like you are really on a bicycle.”

I told him, “I ride my bike everywhere. I don’t need an exercise bike.” So I asked him about another one, “What is this piece of equipment?”

He said, “This is a stair-stepper. You step up on this and it will give you the feeling you are really climbing stairs. It helps you to build the muscles in the backs of your legs.”

I told him, “I live on the ninth floor, and I don’t have an elevator. I don’t need a stair-stepper.” Then I asked him about another one, “What is this?”

He said, ‘This is a treadmill. You can walk on this to get your exercise.”

I said, “I live in East Asia. I walk everywhere!“

After retelling this, Sharon turned to me and said, “At first it didn’t make sense to me why you would leave your comfortable life in the West. But Ben, so many of our East Asian people are working so hard for so many hours to get the kind of a job that will give them enough money so that they can do things like buying a membership card to come and do exercise that I do every day for free. They may sacrifice their health, their families, and sometimes even their integrity in order to get these kinds of jobs.”

“But they don’t have the joy that I have in serving the poor in the village clinics. They don’t have the gladness and freedom that I have in taking care of the orphans at the orphanage. And they don’t have the exultation and fulfillment I feel seeing people come to know Jesus through our medical service. This is a much more meaningful life.”

“It makes sense what you’re doing Ben. I can relate to you now.”

*Some names and identifying features have been changed in this article for security reasons.