When we give, we offer hope

  • Dr. Oge Young

For the Monitor
Monday, December 25, 2017

(The following address was delivered during the Concord Hospital Trust Annual Dinner on Dec. 13.)

Many people in my life have taught me that if we are able, it is better to give than to receive.

But two individuals stand out: my father and my longtime practice partner, Dr. Doug Black. Both were raised in poor families and were without fathers. My dad’s father left his family destitute just before the Depression when he was 5 years old. Doug’s father died working in the granite quarries of Barre, Vt., when Doug was 3 years old.

Fortunately, both had strong, loving mothers.

Doug once told me when his father died, his mom bought a broom and rode it hard. My dad described eating left over samples for supper from the market where his mom worked. Both had newspaper routes through grade school and real jobs in high school. And, both graduated first in their high school classes, but worked several years before starting college to pay down family debt.

My dad was on a crew building the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Doug worked in the same granite quarries where his father developed lung disease and died. A stone crushed his foot and his fractures healed poorly resulting in his distinctive gait.

Both went to college on full scholarships. My dad graduated from the University of Oregon in three years and then fought with the U.S. infantry in Italy during World War II. My older sister was more than a year old when he first laid his eyes on her. After the war and 12 months of plastic surgery, he attended law school on the G.I. Bill. He graduated with three children. His starting salary was $1,500 for his first year as an associate at a law firm in Portland, Ore., where he became managing partner and practiced for more than 50 years.

After only three years of undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont, Doug was invited to enter their medical school. He completed an internship, two years of medical service in the Air Force and a four-year residency in Ob/Gyn at Women’s Hospital in NYC before coming to Concord in 1963 with his family. He said he did not have “a nickel in his pocket” when he started our Ob/Gyn practice where he worked for nearly 50 years. Many in this community knew him well as a beloved physician at Concord Hospital.

Both of these men came from humble beginnings which were followed by many challenges. My father and Doug could have believed that they had earned their places in life. After working so hard, they could have simply enjoyed the fruits of their labor and dwelled in their prosperity.

But instead both men enriched their lives by giving. I suspect they realized that all they had “earned” was actually God given. Grateful for having been born with good minds and healthy bodies to loving mothers, both gifted much and to many who were less fortunate. And, they gifted not with just their treasures but also with their kindness and compassion.

Most of us have glasses that seem half full or half empty, depending on the day. These two men in my life had glasses that seemed always overflowing. They realized that true wealth is not found in vast savings, but instead it is present in the richness of giving. Inspired by them, I had no choice but to try and do the same.

My opportunity came in 1995, when Pam Puleo (executive director of philanthropy) asked me if I would co-chair a capital campaign so that Concord Hospital could build a new Labor and Delivery floor (now known as the Family Place). The thought of improving the birth experience for women and their families was exciting. But, I had realized, after 15 years of practice that a wonderful birth experience and delivering a healthy baby would mean nothing, if we did not take care of the mom and child when they leave our hospital.

Often, I watched as young couples looked at each other after a long, hard labor and delivery, and say, “Finally it’s over.” And, I would whisper, “It’s just beginning.” Those of us with children know that no matter how well-educated or how well-motivated, the challenges of having baby for new parents can be overwhelming.

On rounds, I worried most about the single moms I was sending home with no support – no partner, parents who lived elsewhere, and neighborhoods where there was no longer a woman down the street who would welcome the opportunity to help a new mom as she was once helped.

Also, I have always believe that the first few years of life lasts forever – that bonding between parent and baby is critical. That the support given to assure early attachment makes a real difference. I believe that if we want adults who choose not to be abuse themselves or others, if we want a healthy community, we need to create 4- and 5-year-olds with a deep sense of self worth. And, that starts in the first few weeks of life.

So it was with these thoughts, and the skills and energy of Pam Puleo, that the campaign for the Family Place included the establishment of the Healthy Beginnings Endowment – an endowment at Concord Hospital that provides funding for community programs which support and educate new parents. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year during which we have awarded 99 grants totaling over $950,000.

Interestingly, my father and Doug Black gave founding gifts to this endowment. And, they continued to gift Healthy Beginnings every year until they died. I am proud that the families of my three sons and my two sisters continue to give. They know that the best Christmas or birthday gift for me is a donation to Healthy Beginnings. And, I have loved giving every year in honor of my wife, Pam, who is the rock of our family.

I am grateful to Concord Hospital for giving me the opportunity to found the Healthy Beginnings Endowment, to which I am able give every year. Also, I have had the privilege to steward those funds as the chair of our Advisory Board from the start.

One story and I will close: Years ago I attended the labor of a 17 year-old woman in the dark, early morning hours. Only the labor nurse and I were present in her room. The father of the baby had left her when he learned she was pregnant. She never had known her own father. Her mom abused drugs and alcohol and had never been the mom she would have hoped for.

She labored well, like many young women. When she finally delivered, I placed her baby boy in her arms and I have never forgotten her face. She had the look that every new mom has, that look when they see the most beautiful baby in the world, their baby.

I was worried about the futures of both the young mom and her new child. But, my hope was that with the right support, she might be the mom she wanted to be, the mom she had never had. And, I hoped that maybe someday, this baby boy would attend the birth of his child.

This story has a nice ending. The young woman remained my patient for years. She was supported by the Children’s Place – starting with the New Baby Group and followed by their Toddler Program, both provided by Healthy Beginnings grants. She finally married a man who really loved her. Her son has graduated from high school, has a job and just married. And, last year he was present at the birth of his first child.

I tell this story tonight as an example of how giving links generations and perpetuates what we most value. And, giving allows us to be part of something much larger than ourselves. The establishment of Healthy Beginnings has created a unique opportunity for me to watch money become a “currency of love” as gifts translate into better childhoods, making for a healthy community. By giving, we can know that our fleeting presence on this earth will have a lasting impact on the future of others. Thank you.

(Dr. Oge Young lives in Concord.)