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Milk of Kindness

A GLASS OF MILK (an embellished true story)

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.

Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water! . She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it so slowly, and then asked, How much do I owe you?”

You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.”

He said … “Then I thank you from my heart.”

As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Many years later that same young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes.

Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room.

Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once.

He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won.

Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge, and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words …

“Paid in full with one glass of milk”

(Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly.

Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed: “Thank You, God, that Your love has spread broad through human hearts and hands.”

I have learned (through Snopes.com) that this beautiful story is based on a true story; however, it has been embellished a bit to make it even more heart-warming. Dr. Howard Kelly was born in 1858 and lived until 1943. He became a distinguished physician and one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital and University (the first medical research university in the United States). In 1895 he established the department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the medical school.

According to a first-hand account biography written by Audrey Davis, a long time friend of Dr. Kelly’s, the story of the bill paid in full by the glass of milk is true. Here is the real account:

On a hiking trip up through Northern Pennsylvania one spring, Howard Kelly stopped by a small farmhouse for a drink of cool spring water. A little girl answered his knock and instead of water brought him a glass of fresh milk. After a short friendly visit, he went on his way. Some years later, that same little girl came to him for an operation. Just before she left for home, her bill was brought into her room and across its face was written in a bold hand, “Paid in full with one glass of milk.”

Here is an interesting fact about Dr. Kelly and the distinguished medical profession of the Victorian period and the turn of the 19th century. During his time as a physician he was known and criticized for charging inflated fees to those who could afford it, and underwrote 75% of his cases. In other words, a majority of his patients were given free medical care. Yes, it may have been on the backs of those who had more than enough money, but during his time there was no provisions like medical insurance or medic-aid for those who were less fortunate.

There’s a saying which goes something like this: Bread cast on the water comes back to you. The good deed you do today may benefit you or someone you love at the least expected time. If you never see the deed again at least you will have made the world a better place – And, after all, isn’t that what life is all about?

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