In 1999, Dr Paul Brand and Philip Yancey co-wrote a book called Pain: the Gift Nobody Wants. Dr Brand was born in India to missionary parents, and has spent most of his life caring for people with leprosy. One of Dr Brand’s greatest discoveries was that people with leprosy do not have "bad flesh" that just rots away. Actually, their flesh is as healthy as yours, or mine. The problem is that blood flow is restricted to certain parts of their body, and their nerve endings die.
With this death of their nerve endings comes the inability to sense danger to their bodies. Lepers live pain free.
Don’t you wish you could live pain free? Not when you realize that this absence of pain is the greatest enemy of the leper. Again and again they harm their bodies, without even knowing it. They feel no pain. Dr Brand knew that lepers often went blind. Why? Because they didn’t blink. They didn’t blink because they didn’t feel the pain that we feel when our eyes dry out. Dr Brand solved this problem by surgically attaching the chewing muscle to their eyelid - and then teaching them to chew gum.
Dr Brand was puzzled by the fact that lepers often lost fingers and toes overnight. He knew that they weren’t simply disappearing into thin air, so he commissioned workers to observe the lepers sleeping. To their surprise, they found that rats would come in and nibble the exposed fingers and toes. The lepers, who did not feel pain, never awoke to brush them away.
As the title of the book says, pain is the gift that nobody wants. So is regret. You know what we call someone that has no regrets? A psychopath! Without remorse, nothing leads to change.
(Stephen Sheane "Remembering the Blessings" 1/19/2009)
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