Boston’s Legendary Doctor for the Homeless Marks 30 Years

Boston Globe

As a young man, the doctor made a promise. He would do this kind of work for one year. It was, he believed, all anyone could stand.

Practicing medicine on the street is too taxing. It pushes its practitioners to the edge of their physical and emotional limits. One year, he told himself, and then it’s time for oncology.

What’s that old saying? Man plans and God laughs.

Years later, the doctor, Jim O’Connell, found himself on a train, re-reading a book about Sisyphus, the Greek mythological figure doomed to roll an enormous boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down – a cycle repeated into eternity.

“Oh, my God! This is about my life,’’ O’Connell remembers thinking. “I’m doing nothing but pushing this rock up the hill. But then I started seeing a different side. I think the work I get to do is a blessing. I am unencumbered by routine, and the people we take care of really appreciate it. It’s a gratifying way to live.’’

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