Schweitzer had a reverence for life

As an idealistic 20-something, one of my idols was German-born Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965).
Respected theologian and philosopher, dedicated physician and medical missionary, esteemed author, accomplished organist and Nobel prize winner, Schweitzer was an amazing person!
The son of a pastor who also was a musician, his father taught Schweitzer to play the piano and organ at a very young age.
Young Schweitzer first played in his father’s church at age nine. Then, beginning at age 10, he studied with outstanding organists.
The young boy’s talent was no surprise, as both of his grandfathers were accomplished organists. He was so fascinated, in fact, that he studied organ until 18 when he switched to the study of philosophy and theology.
Schweitzer earned his doctorate in philosophy at age 24, and a year later completed a theology degree.
For the next five years, Schweitzer served as a pastor, was a frequent lecturer, served as a university professor, continued his distinguished musical career, and authored a landmark book, “The Quest of the Historical Jesus.”
All that in only five years!
And then at age 30, he fulfilled a promise he had made to himself earlier. At age 21, he formed the inner resolve that he would follow his scholarly and music interests until age 30 and then he would serve humanity.
In order to better serve, he began medical school, graduating with an M.D. degree at age 38. Then, in July, 1913, the 38-year-old Schweitzer left his incredible success behind and, with his wife, Helene, went to French Equatorial Africa to establish a much-needed hospital.
His first hospital was a restored chicken house.
During the next 50 years, Schweitzer dedicated his life to the hospital. Funds came from royalties from his numerous books, international organ concerts, and gifts from around the world.
By the early 1960s, the hospital complex had grown to 70 buildings and a patient capacity of 500.
For his humanitarian work, Schweitzer received many honorary doctorates. And he received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize.
True to form, he used the prize money to establish a centre to care for people with leprosy.
But it was not Schweitzer’s amazing accomplishments that made him my youthful role model. What I liked about this distinguished man was his “Reverence for Life.”
Schweitzer wrote a book with this title and he also lived the concept.
As a small child, he was sensitive to the suffering of all living things—from spiders to horses. And he believed that religious ethics should extend beyond mankind to all living beings.
“Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life,” he said.
Schweitzer says it better than I can. Listen to his words:
“If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life. A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”
In his “Memoirs of Childhood and Youth,” Schweitzer cites a prayer he prayed at his mother’s knee:
“O, heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath; guard them from all evil, and let them sleep in peace.”
Amen!
Write Marie Snider at thisside60@cox.net

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