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A Passion for Helping

Story ID:4682
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:various various Ethiopia
Person:Dr. Rick Hodes
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This morning I read the December '08 Reader's Digest Article on Dr. Rick
Hodes. It brought tears to my eyes -- good tears because here is a man, who
in my opinion, is perhaps best likened to a "Jewish" Mother Teresa. Sandra,
my Jewish friend will certainly enjoy the comparison because she likes "my"
Catholic Mother Teresa as I very much like "her" Jewish humanitarian- Dr.
Rick Hodes.

Only 47 years old, he perhaps has lived more productively and compassionately
during the past 15+ years then most of us who are in our golden years. No, I am
not jealous - I am grateful and in awe of his works. He has a simple philosophy -
"Just don't say no." In 2001 when he decided to put 2 Ethiopian orphans on his
insurance plan so that they could have surgery in Texas, he initially found it a
scary decision, but as he recalls "The answer that came to me was, God is
offering you an opportunity to help these boys. Don't say no."

Though a bachelor, that principle of not being able to say no has translated into
the adoption of five Ethiopian children - the maximum allowed. It is probably a
good thing that there is an imposed limit because I can well imagine his big
heart not being able to say no to many more orphans. Even so, up to 20 kids
live with him at any given time in his modest home in Ethiopia which has no
hot water or even reliable electricity.

His career as a doctor started in 1990 when he was hired by the Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee to help in the evacuation of 14,000 Ethiopian Jews
to be flown to Israel from Addis Ababa as rebel armies surrounded the city in
1991. His job was to pull Jews out of the hospitals and to treat those who were
ill so that they could be part of the largest civilian airlift in world history.

He also took part in the treatment of thousands of Rawandan refugees who
fled to Zaire where many of them were dying from a cholera epidemic.

He was there when the Serbian government carried out a systematic
campaign of murder, persecution, and mass deportation of Kosovo Muslims.
He helped treat thousands of the people who had fled to Albania to seek

After his 6 weeks of employment to help evacuate the Ethiopian Jews, he
stayed in Ethiopia where he supervised the treatment of over 40,000 people
at two clinics operated by the JDC. He also treated probably thousands
more as a volunteer doctor at Mother Teresa's Mission there.

There is so much more to read about this selfless doctor who could be making
a good living in the U.S. as a specialist in the treatment of cancer, heart
disease, and spinal conditions-- but for now his work is in Ethiopia where he
says: "I love my work. I love ending the day knowing that people are alive
because I went to work that day." And he often likes to quote a favorite passage
form the Talmud, the ancient book of Jewish law: "Saving one life is like saving
an entire world." I hope this beautiful concept applies to the saving of innocent
suffering animals as well.