I decided to use the story of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler in a weekly column during Black History Month after reading Kimya Loder’s Our Daily Bread Devotional on Dec. 4, 2022.
Dr. Crumpler was the first African American woman to earn a medical degree. She was born in 1831 and died in 1895, so it is no surprise many never recognized her knowledge and ability during that period in our history. Despite her training and remarkable intelligence, she said she regularly faced being “ignored, slighted and rendered insignificant.”
Though many opposed Dr. Crumpler and refused to be treated by her, she never wavered in her commitment to her patients. No matter the challenge, she refused to allow anything to keep her from ministering to the sick. Although others minimized and criticized her medical ability, she did not let their opinions keep her from treating the patients who most needed her help.
This meant she was often relegated to treating women, children and former slaves. However, she saw this as her way to serve God. Tragically, it would take nearly 100 years for her to receive the formal recognition she deserved.
Kimya Loder wrote the following about Dr. Crumpler, “There are times when we’ll be overlooked, devalued, or unappreciated by those around us. Biblical wisdom reminds us, however, that when God has called us to a task, we shouldn’t focus on gaining worldly approval and recognition but should instead ‘work at it with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord.’” (Colossians 3:23)
Dr. Crumpler understood many would never approve of her, an African American woman practicing medicine, but her commitment was to please God, not try to gain public approval and acceptance. That was essential since she lived in a culture where many would never value her or her contributions regardless of how much she achieved or how many she helped.
While it is appropriate to get along with people, you and I will never please everyone. Abraham Lincoln understood this reality when he adapted poet John Lydgate’s words, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
Some will question our actions and motives regardless of how hard we try. Instead of trying to please everyone, we need to focus on pleasing God, the one to whom each of us will eventually answer. It is far better to focus on pleasing God, the one who knows and loves us, when we inevitably fall short of the perfection expected by others.