Leslie Meyer A Saint in Our Midst
Saints are in our midst, but we rarely notice. They deserve our
attention, for they inspire and challenge us to invest our own lives
with greater significance and higher priorities.
example of Leslie Meyer. He grew up on a farm in eastern Nebraska during
the Great Depression. His Lutheran grandfather, August Meyer, provided
him with an insight into life that has guided Les ever since.
German immigrant and homesteader, the elder Meyer advised his grandson
to work hard and never take something from the ground without putting
This guiding principle of renewal and
stewardship, and a dogged determination to build a better life, spurred
the younger Meyer to leave the hardscrabble family farm and enroll at
the University of Nebraska.
Les Meyer worked diligently in his
courses, found jobs to help pay tuition, and earned admission to medical
school after graduation. He enrolled just as the Second World War was
erupting. In 1942, while still a medical student, Meyer enlisted in the
Army, but he was allowed to complete his studies before being stationed
at an Army hospital in Atlanta.
There he was assigned the
difficult task of caring for soldiers who had lost limbs in battle.
Working among the shattered bodies, Meyer found his calling: he would
devote his life to helping those who suffered from a life-changing
After the war, Meyer took a residency in orthopedic
surgery at Duke University, then moved to Greenville. He began working
at the Shriners Hospital, an orthopedic facility providing comprehensive
care to children at no charge. As a surgeon, and later as chief of
staff, Meyer noticed that there were few educational opportunities for
the youngest children once they were discharged and returned to their
Children with such disabilities rarely enrolled in
public schools. Unless parents could afford to send them to a special
school, children with significant mental or physical challenges would
often languish at home, where they made few friends and received little
Working with United Cerebral Palsy, a
Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, Meyer participated in a telethon
to raise money for a new school and clinic in Greenville. Movie star Don
Ameche hosted the show, which raised more than $30,000, and the
Cerebral Palsy Center opened later that year in the back of the nursing
residences at Greenville General Hospital. Meyer took on the voluntary
position of medical director.
The Cerebral Palsy Center, which
treated a variety of disabilities and had many locations over the years,
cared for children and young adults between the ages of 3 and 21. As a
private non-profit agency, however, its financial resources were
limited. It was only through Meyers determination and countless hours
of service provided by volunteers that the agency survived.
he spent so much time at the Cerebral Palsy Center and the Shriners
Hospital, Dr. Meyer had little time to devote to his private practice.
Yet he regularly provided life-changing care while asking for little
more than a thank you.
As children with disabilities began
being admitted into public schools during the 1970s under the Americans
with Disabilities Act, the Cerebral Palsy Center shifted its focus to
provide therapy and education for preschoolers.
In 1983, the
center was renamed the Meyer Center for Special Children. The remarkable
agency receives public and private funding and has served more than a
Meyer, now 84, has witnessed many changes in
medicine over his long career, but he is not finished giving. He still
volunteers at the Shriners Hospital, where he helps manage the Limb
On the days hes not volunteering, Meyer rises
at 6 a.m. to work on his llama farm near Easley. How uplifting it is to
know this gentle man who has devoted his life to helping others. His
simplicity and humility are remarkable.
His concern for others is
genuine and everlasting. Les Meyers example invites us to find new
ways to serve humanity ourselves, for his selfless life of service
reminds us how fulfilling a life of good works can be.
given it a good shot and managed to keep from falling off the wagon, he
says. Ive not made as much money as many physicians, but Im
satisfied.And Ill keep working as long as Im able. Thats the way I
was raised on the farm.
August Meyer would be proud. The shining
example of Les Meyer remains alive in the hearts of very special young
people, and the work of the Meyer Center will remain good work, Gods
work, to do and to support.