On July 2, 1881, tragedy struck across the U.S. as President James Garfield was shot at a railroad station by the insane Charles Guiteau. In the moments that followed, some of the most horrendous acts of insanitation were committed. The doctors that examined Garfield in that station showed no hesitation as they plunged bare, unwashed fingers into the wound, inserting thousands of germs off the station floor into his back. Dr. Willard Bliss, the doctor that cared for the dying Garfield, performed other exploratory surgeries and such in search of the bullet all in the most unsanitary methods. It is a shame that five years earlier this same doctor had ignored a man named Dr. Joseph Lister and the World’s fair in New York. Lister had been a pioneer in the field of antiseptic surgery and had greatly reduced the infection rates in his hospital. Unfortunately, at the World’s Fair, many American doctors refused to believe in Lister’s methods. Due to their pride and ignorance, President Garfield and countless others, died from infection and blood poisoning. If he had been shot in the same way fifteen years later, he would have been nearly recovered within two weeks.
Although doctors in the eighteen hundreds, such as Dr. Bliss, knew a lot about surgery and medicine, they did not know enough. Ultimately, when the time came for action they failed, because they would not believe that they were wrong. They had closed their minds to any new ideas that may be and in fact were right. Far too often this very same attitude is seen in the way scientists and doctors’ work. They decide that one way is the best and they close their minds to all others. There is so much more for us to learn just as there was so much for those doctors to learn. If we close our mind to new discoveries, because we have already reached the top we will quickly find ourselves at the bottom.
Garfield’s life could have been saved if Dr. Bliss had headed Dr. Lister’s antiseptic advice. I can’t help but wonder how many lives today would be saved if people were willing to put their pride in a box and realize that they may be wrong. While this example is an example from the medical world, this same concept applies to everyone. When we allow our pride to get in the way, we miss out on the world of wisdom and knowledge that God has for us. We have learned a lot, much of it due to the stepping stones laid down by past generations, but we have not learned it all.
Fifteen years after Garfield’s death he would have been fine. The doctors would have known how to find and remove the bullet in only a few hours and he would have been on his way to recovery. Fifteen years from now we will know so much more than we know now, that is, if we humble ourselves. If we continue in a state of pride and vanity with closed hearts and sealed minds, God will curse us as Ezekiel warned. We are not the greatest. No matter how much we discover and accomplish we will never know it all. Only God knows it all. He is the greatest.