Wednesday, September 7, 2011

No Reserve, No Retreat, No Regrets - the story of William Whiting Borden

Ever since I completed my surgical training, the big question before me has always been, what I should be doing and where. And I guess most of my colleagues are in the same boat now as we approach the most productive years of our professional lives. On the one hand there is a lot of peer pressure to train some more (remember I have been training for 9 years already with 3 degrees!). On the other is the restive feeling in my soul that causes me to wonder if my life is heading in some direction or I am merely meandering along as the tides may flow. Of course, there is always the bulwark of my faith that comforts me in times of doubt and questioning, but my human nature constantly goads me into thinking about the future and wondering what is in store. The choices that are before me are many and all of them appear good and acceptable. So how does one choose between all these attractive and good options. I recently came across the story of William Whiting Borden and gained much inspiration and direction from the story of his life and what he had to say about it.

William Borden was born into luxury, the heir to the Borden family fortune. When he graduated from high school in 1904, his graduation present from his parents was a trip around the world. It changed his life. Unlike most tourists of that time and now, he did not merely take in the beautiful sights and wonders that cities of the world showpiece. He also saw the suffering and hurt that was omnipresent wherever he went. He came back to America convinced that he had been called to try and help alleviate some of that suffering by serving people who were not as privileged as he was. His family and friends thought this was a ridiculous idea and tried to convince him that he should not waste his life 'throwing himself away as a missionary'. But his mind was made up. He had put his hand to the plow and would hold nothing back. He wrote a will leaving his fortune to the China Inland Mission. And on the back page of his Bible he wrote two words - No Reserves.

He entered Yale and began to transform college life from his first semester. He organised a prayer group that grew from 2 students to 1300. He founded the Yale Hope Mission to rescue drunks from the streets and rehabilitate them. He provided care for widows, orphans and the disabled. He served as the president of the Phi Beta Kappa honour society. When he graduated from college, he was offered many high paying jobs, all of which he rejected. Then his father asked him to join the family business. When he told his father that he wanted rather to do graduate work in theology and then move out to some area of need in another country, his father told him he would never work in his company again. He went back home and wrote two more words at the back of his Bible - No Retreat.

After graduate work at Princeton, he sailed for China. Since he knew there would be many Muslims where he was planning to work, he decided to stop over in Egypt and learn Arabic. There he contracted spinal meningitis and died.  The story was featured in many American newspapers and everyone was asking if his untimely death was a waste. Borden didn't think so. Prior to his death Borden had written two more words in his Bible - No Regrets.....

His biographer, Mary Taylor, wrote in her introduction, 'Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice'.

I hope I will keep these phrases in mind as I make my choices - No Reserves, No Retreat, No Regrets.

No comments:

Post a Comment