Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I've long said that Rochester is the great leveler.
When people come to Mayo Clinic in the cornfields of Minnesota for treatment, they come from all corners of the world and all walks of life, kings and presidents, priests and paupers. I recall being in town many years ago when then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Rochester to meet with Jordan's late King Hussein, who was undergoing treatment for cancer at Mayo Clinic at the time. There were banners across the main downtown street, Broadway, welcoming both men to town.
Around that same time, several years ago, my husband and I were in town for routine medical care and staying in a hotel which was hosting several members of the Saudi Royal Family on its top floors, including King Fahd. As only Rochester can do, it brought us face to face, in a way that would not have been likely, or even possible, in most of the rest of the world. My husband and I went into the Concierge Lounge that morning for breakfast, prior to our planned checkout later that morning, and there were only two other diners in the room--King Fahd, and a male attendant. The all too young manager of the hotel was standing over the pair fussing to try to discern what it was that was required. Two female employees from the concierge staff also busily stood at the ready. But no one could understand what it was that His Majesty wanted, and there was clear and present frustration.
I stood up, begged pardon and asked if I might be of assistance, then explained to the hotel manager what it was that His Majesty wanted.
"Sweet milk," I explained.
King Fahd nodded at me in appreciation as I explained to the hotel staff what this was. His companion thanked me most graciously.
Anywhere else, that act of assistance, that encounter, might never have taken place, but in Rochester, we were all children of the Almighty at the mercy of our quest for competent and compassionate medical care, in the cornfields of Minnesota.
King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al Saud.
I felt a special sadness later when I read of his death. Our paths had crossed, if only briefly, in this life in a simple act of compassion for a fellow traveller on the journey.