A non-religious girl in her early 20's thinks she is in the wrong place when she shows up for her first day at a new job and finds she is to live and work in a convent. A trained nurse and midwife, Jenny Lee almost leaves but instead decides to stay and work with the nuns and other nurses. She encounters filth, poverty, and sin -- squalor almost unimaginable -- in her work with the families of London's East End of the 1950's. Call the Midwife is not a pretty book. The themes are often dark, the descriptions grotesque, and the endings not always happy.
There were many sweet moments as well; the joy found in a newborn baby shines above the less than ideal living situations. Mothers and fathers glow with love, and, in one family, the 24th and 25th babies are as anticipated, welcomed, and treasured as a 1st or 2nd child.
At first, Jenny thinks the nuns are a joke and their faith laughable. However, their decades of selfless service and ongoing, quiet love of God impress the young nurse, and she undergoes a change of heart. She is filled with respect and deep love. The last scene of Call the Midwife touched me the most.
In it, Jenny is talking with a senile nun in her 90's -- who even in her old age had delivered babies in bomb shelters, crypts, and actual bomb sites during the World Wars. Born to a life of privilege, Sister Monica Joan shunned wealth and comfort to serve among the poor and dirty of London's dockland slums. Jenny asks the old women what caused her to do it, "Was it love of people?"
"Of course not," she snapped sharply. "How can you love ignorant, brutish
people whom you don't even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or
lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in
spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and
through his grace come to love his people."
She later continued:
"Find out for yourself -- we all have to in the end. No one can give you faith; it is a gift from God alone. Seek and ye shall find. Read the Gospels. There is no other way. [...] Go with God."
Jenny Lee did indeed begin to read the Gospels that night. What a witness!
It is in God we find the strength to do what we could never do on our own. An old woman with a failing mind was still making an impact for the Kingdom of God from her sick bed. A lifetime of service behind her, Sister Monica Joan's simple words of direction to the source of truth was just what a seeking young woman needed at that moment.
My strong desire is to live in a way that causes others to ask, "Why?"
I would love to share the gift of God's grace and tell them to "Read the Gospels and go with God!"