Howard Atwood Kelly (1858–1943) was a distinguished American gynecologist and one of four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, along with William Osler, William Halsted, and William Welch.
A true story about Dr. Kelly repaying a little girl’s kindness, recorded in his biography “Dr. Kelly of Hopkins: Surgeon, Scientist, Christian” by his friend Audrey Davis, gives proof to the popular saying “No good deed goes unrewarded.”
Throughout Howard Atwood Kelly’s career as a surgeon and medical professor, he spearheaded many medical innovations, such as developing new surgical approaches to women’s gynecological diseases, utilizing radium to treat cancer, inventing the “Kelly clamp,” “Kelly speculum,” “Kelly forceps,” an improved cystoscope, as well as performing the first successful C-section.
Beyond his medical accomplishments, Dr. Kelly was a devout Christian and possessed a compassionate and generous heart.
He would pray with his surgical team before conducting an operation and persistently committed acts of generosity by contributing at least 30 percent of his income to several Christian ministries, orphanages, and hospitals, according to Creation-Evolution Headlines.
As per Davis’s biography of Dr. Kelly, while the doctor charged enormous fees for those who could afford it, he gave treatment to needy patients for free. It was said that he wrote off the bills for an estimated 75 percent of the patients he treated.
Taking a step further, he even hired a nurse to visit and care for these impoverished patients, without charging them a fee.
Dr. Kelly’s most notable tale of generosity, retold and circulated in books and on social media, was about how he repaid a little girl for her glass of milk. This famous story unfolded during the doctor’s hiking trip through Northern Pennsylvania one spring.
While walking through the countryside to study wildlife, Dr. Kelly felt thirsty and stopped by a farmhouse to ask for a drink of cool water. A little girl came to the door, and upon hearing his request, she brought him a glass of fresh milk rather than a cup of water.
Following the short, friendly visit, Dr. Kelly resumed his journey. Years later, he met that same little girl again when she consulted him as a patient. The girl was in need of surgery, and subsequently, he performed an operation on her.
After the surgery, the little girl saw the bill as she was ready to go home. On the bill, Dr. Kelly wrote, “Paid in full with one glass of milk.”
The tale of Dr. Kelly repaying a small act of kindness serves to remind us how important it is to show hospitality to strangers in need, for by doing so, you may have unknowingly entertained angels!
This evergreen story is also a perfect example of how good people will be duly rewarded for their kind deeds in the end.
Good begets good; if you do good to others, good things will happen to you too. So, the next time you come across someone in need, be generous and kind toward them.