Dozens of senior living residents took their final breath week. Margaret Lawrence was among them.
But she was no ordinary face in the crowd. A stellar college student and athlete, Lawrence should have begun medical school in 1936 at Cornell University. But there was one little problem: She happened to be black.
So rather than gladly accept her application, the medical school’s dean replied with an insulting letter.
“Twenty-five years ago there was a Negro man admitted,” the dean wrote, adding, “and it didn’t work out.” It didn’t work out because the previously mentioned student had the temerity to die from tuberculosis.
Fortunately, people with the brains and fortitude of a Margaret Lawrence don’t usually let little things such as systemic racism derail their dreams. So she studied medicine at Columbia University instead. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Lawrence eventually became a renowned pediatrician and child psychiatrist. She also was the first woman in the United States to become a psychoanalyst. A full obituary appears in the New York Times.
As a white man, I am in no position to appreciate the indignities and abuse she must have endured on her journey. So I will simply admire the noble and admirable achievements she made against very long odds.
She was truly special. Then again, aren’t all the residents served in senior living truly special?
So much of what we see in the news about this sector tends to be negative. That is not necessarily an indictment against media outlets. For the most part, the bad coverage tends to be earned. But that is only a part of the story.
The bigger picture is this: For every rascal in senior living doing something wrong, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of others doing something right.
Day in and day out, the people of senior living demonstrate an uncommon commitment to those they serve. In doing so, they bring compassion to their residents — and honor to themselves.