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  • When I was about 15, I had to pick a biography and write a book report.

    I went to the library and landed upon Albert Schweitzer, through sheer coincidence, or was it? I remember neither the moment at the library, the reading of that particular book, nor the book report.

    I do remember that it changed my life forever.

    Until age 13 in Argentina, I had never been exposed to dire poverty, hunger, pain or anyone in real need. To me, being poor was defined by how rich others were, and, growing up, I saw my family as poorer than my relatives, many of whom lived in great homes with ample staff, automobiles, TV’s and other luxuries, none of which we could afford. While I had received a great education, current events were not taught and I knew little about life in other countries, let alone Africa.

    Going back to Schweitzer, I remember reading about his early life as an organist, a composer and a organ maker. By age 30, he had it made. A religious man, though, he felt called by God after reading about the dire needs of those in French West Africa, now Gabon, and decided to change course and begin medical school, in order to help the needy.

    I was awestruck that this “older person” would leave a good life for the uncertainty of living in Africa, to help some people he had never even met, and begin medical school at an age where he could have been enjoying the fruits of his labor.

    After that book, I devoured all of his writings, and became Schweitzer’s biggest fan. His photo was on my wall next to Alain Delon and the Beatles. I decided I would learn French. My dream was to go to Africa to work with him when I got older. Finally, when my French became passable, I actually wrote to him telling him of my plans!

    Oh how I love that 15 year old Lili -- her courage, her determination, her naive faith!

    To be continued...
    Photo of me in front of the Schweitzer home, many years after I first loved him.

    ¿Contestará mi carta?

    A los quince años, tuve que elegir y leer una biografía y escribir una composición.

    Fuí a la biblioteca, y caí de casualidad sobre Albert Schweitzer. ¿casualidad, o causalidad? No me acuerdo, ni mi viaje a la biblioteca, ni el libro que elegí, ni el reporte que escribí.

    Solo sé que mi vida cambió para siempre.

    Hasta los trece años en Argentina, nunca tuve la ocasión de ver pobreza de verdad, el hambre o la gente necesitada. Para mí la pobreza se definía por los otros que tenían más que nosotros, como mis familiares, que tenían autos, televisores, mucamas y muchos lujos que no podíamos tener. Mientras que me educaban muy bien, nunca aprendí sobre los eventos del momento, especialmente en otros países y más especialmente en el continente Africano.

    Volviendo a Schweitzer, me acuerdo leer sobre su trabajo de compositor, organista, y constructor de órganos. A los 30 años, ya tenía su vida armada. Pero decidió dejar todo y comenzar a estudiar medicina, sintiendo una llamada de Dios, después de haber leído sobre las necesidades de la gente en Africa Occidental Francesa, hoy Gabon.

    Yo me quedé boquiabierta ante esta persona "mayor" que dejó todo para ir a ayudar a gente que no conocía en un país extranjero, tan lejos del suyo, y que iba a empezar una carrera nueva cuando podía haber disfrutado los frutos de su labor.

    Después de ese libro, devoré todo lo que Schweitzer había escrito y me convertí en su "hincha" más fanática. Su foto apareció en mi cuarto, al lado de Alain Delon y de los Beatles. Decidí aprender francés soñando que algún día me iría al Africa a ser parte de su equipo. Finalmente, cuando pensé que mi francés era pasable ¡le escribí una carta!

    ¡Cómo amo a esa chica, Lili de 15 años, con esa determinación, ese coraje, esa fé tan inocente.

    Continúa....
    Foto: yo enfrente de la casa de Schweitzer, muchos años después
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