John W.V. Cordice, M.D. died recently, four days after Christmas to be precise. A native of Durham, North Carolina, he earned his medical degree at New York University in 1942. Formally an attending surgeon and chief of thoracic surgery at Harlem Hospital Center, he practiced medicine in New York for 40 years.
On September 20, 1958, Dr. Cordice was off duty when a young but already influential minister and civil rights leader by the name of Martin Luther King was brought into the Harlem Hospital with a 7 inch steel blade stuck in his chest, millimeters from his aorta. Dr. King had been signing books in Harlem when a woman stabbed him with a letter opener. So close to death was Dr. King that if he had sneezed before surgeons had a chance to remove the object, he would have died. Rushing to the hospital, Dr. Cordice and an associate, Dr. Emil Naclerio performed the operation to save Dr. King’s life. 14 days later, Dr. King was discharged from Harlem Medical Center and resumed a career and a passion that would change the lives of millions of people.
As leaders in our Unitarian Universalist faith, we never know what acts we may perform that will change the course of the lives of others. As ministers, staff and lay leaders, each time we deliver a sermon or coordinate a fund drive or attend a community rally, we change history. Each time we sit down to a Board meeting or teach a religious education class, or lend an ear and a heart to someone who is hurting, we save lives.
As we enter a new year of service together, we must never underestimate the importance of what we do nor overestimate the blessings we receive in having the opportunity to do it.
Happy New Year
-Mark Bernstein, CERG Consultant