I just had dinner with my mother-in-law. There’s nothing terribly unusual about this; we have dinner every night. But these days, with Ana in Singapore for a few weeks (one week left to go!), when Ana’s daughter isn’t around (as she isn’t tonight), it’s just Sylvia and me.
So we chat.
Tonight she told me a story about a time when she was a nursing student, at Franklin Hospital in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and about a paper she had to write. The students each had to pick a patient they had worked with, and do a detailed paper on the patient’s condition, treatment, progress, and so forth.
She chose a young woman who was pregnant, and had all sorts of complications. The pregnancy was not going well, and the woman had a really rough time of it.
To make matters worse, there was no husband in the picture: she was an unwed mother. This was the 1940s: the stigma of unmarried pregnancy loomed large, and unwed mothers had a much tougher time of things than they do today. Sylvia (then all of 18) sympathized with the woman, but decided that her marital status was not relevant, and made a point of leaving it out of her paper.
She did a pile of research, documented the woman’s condition and progress carefully, including the birth, which she attended. The birth went well, and the new mother named her baby “Treasure,” which no doubt was quite accurate.
When the papers came back, graded, Sylvia was nervous. She had worked on that sucker really hard, and hoped she’d gotten at least a passing grade. With her first glance she saw the big letter “A” written at the top.
She looked closer. Actually, it did not say “A”—it said “A+.”
Sylvia was flabbergasted. (Also thrilled.) She went to see the instructor and asked, what was so good about the paper that it had earned her an A+?
“You did an excellent job with your research,” the woman told her. “The case was documented well. It was clearly work that deserved an A.”
“And I noticed that you left out any mention of the fact that the young woman was not married. That deserved an A-plus.”