Tolerance

toleranceJames Herrick, MD, was a renowned Rush Medical College graduate and faculty member credited with identifying sickle cell anemia. He practiced at Presbyterian Hospital, which later became part of Rush.

Rush archivist Nathalie Wheaton recently came across the following article, from the Presbyterian Hospital Bulletin, about a speech Herrick delivered shortly before Christmas, 1937.

Herrick_from-1910-class-comDr. James B. Herrick, a practicing physician for more than 50 years and a member of the Presbyterian Hospital Medical Staff since 1891, was the speaker at the Sunday morning service in the chapel of the University of Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 13. Some excerpts from his inspiring address on the subject of “Tolerance” are especially appropriate at this season when we are reminded of the angels’ song of peace and goodwill on that Christmas night of long ago.

After pointing out that the doctor has an unusual opportunity of seeing life both good and bad, because “he sees people just as they are,” Dr. Herrick said that “a true doctor has a dual personality. Toward diseases he must be impartially, even coldly, scientific. What is the nature of the illness? What can be done to ameliorate or cure it? Can it be prevented in the future? Toward the patient, however, the doctor must be sympathetic, in the derivational sense of the word — suffering with the afflicted one, whom he views not alone as a ‘case’ but as a thinking, feeling, timorous human being.”

“Tolerance” said Dr. Herrick, “is forbearance; it is the exercise of patience and charity toward one whose opinions or acts we do not approve. While we may condemn the deed, we do not necessarily condemn the doer. Though we believe our opinion and behavior are right, we do not, except by persuasion, education, or example try to induce him to give up his own view or to adopt our practice; unless, it must be added, he is periling society, for there is a limit even to tolerance. Intolerance, on the other hand, is offended by, and unwilling to put up with, opinions that differ from our own.

“But many of the differences that estrange people are not serious; they are largely due to the accident of when and where one was born; they are matters of race, country, custom, environment.

“Surely there are more common characteristics that should unite people than differences that should separate them. No one nation, no one race, no economic, intellectual or social group has a monopoly of the higher attributes such as honesty, kindness, idealism.

“So the doctor, as he grows older, learns to look upon people as, after all, very much alike. The question is not whether one in trouble is of this race or religion or that; whether he is cultured or ignorant. The question is whether the individual is ill or thinks he is. If so, the doctor tries to help him. Should not others, even those in high authority, have some such view of people as has the physician? A more liberal recognition of the brotherhood of man would help solve some of the troublesome problems of the day.”

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