Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Need to Lower Expectations

A secular paper carried the story of a priest of the Seoul diocese who spent his life working for the poor in different countries of the world and  finally ended up seriously depressed and living with his sister.

 A journalist, a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, interviewed him for the paper.
At one point during the interview, he said, "It's strange to have a priest with depression isn't it? Well, I have all my life worried about money, and that stress put me here."

His father, a wealthy and prominent Catholic doctor, was hoping to be working in a hospital with his sons. The first son did become a doctor and the second son started off in Seoul University Medical School but after two years dropped out to enter the seminary. His son's decision to leave medical school so angered the  father that he turned away from the Church for a few years. But not entirely giving up hope, the father secretly had the medical school consider his son on a leave of absence. While the son was in the seminary, the rector heard about his problem in deciding between medicine and the priesthood and told him to go on for a medical degree, and return to the seminary to become a priest-doctor working for the poor. Which he did and was ordained a priest, spending 10 years working for the poor in a refugee area of Seoul while teaching in the Catholic Medical School.

 In 1987, he left Korea to go to South American and ended up working in one of the poorest areas of Ecuador. He returned to Korea and sold all his possessions to help in the medical work. From Ecuador, he went to Africa and a number of other areas where they needed medical help. During all this time money was necessary to form medical teams to continue the work for the poor without any burden on them. This was a great drain on him and a reason for much of his stress.
Returning to Korea near his 70th birthday, he had difficulty eating and sleeping. He found it even difficult to face his priest friends and went to the home of his youngest sister to live. There he would spend hours looking out into space. The sister made efforts to have him see a doctor, but his answer was always: "this is the will of God."  He knew his problem for his symptoms were the classical ones for depression in all the medical books. He didn't want to face the facts. But his sister convinced him to swallow his pride and see a doctor. Which he did.
He was told the stress in raising money and overwork brought about his depression. His condition has improved greatly and he is already planning to continue his medical work for the poor. This is part of the reason he agreed to the interview and is hoping to have enough money to continue his work.

This is a good example for us to ponder on what faces many in living up to their ideals. Many have great expectations but are not sufficiently prepared to carry out what they envision. Some are able to maneuver within the situation while others are overcome by it; their dreams being bigger than what they are able to handle, there often is a breakdown of health, either physical or mental. We sometimes hear, spoken in jest, "Keep your expectations low and be an overachiever." Though there may be some truth expressed here, which will motivate some, others may find that having realistic expectations will ultimately be more satisfying.

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