Archibald J. Cronin (1896-1981) was a Scottish physician, novelist, dramatist and writer of non-fiction who was one of the most renowned storytellers of the twentieth century. In his autobiography Adventures in Two Worlds (1952), Cronin describes his experiences as a medical officer to a Welsh Mining Company. There was a middle-aged district nurse there who had served the people of Tregenny for more than twenty years, “with fortitude and patience, calmness and cheerfulness.”
Cronin was impressed by her character which exuded “unconscious selflessness”. He was sorry to learn that she was paid an inadequate salary and he one day discussed the matter with her. “Why don’t you make them pay you more? It’s ridiculous that you work for so little,” he said. She raised her eyebrows slightly, smiled, and replied, “I have enough to get along.”
Cronin persisted: “You ought to have an extra pound a week at least. God knows you’re worth it.” There was a pause. Her smile remained, but her gaze held a gravity, an intensity which startled the author.
“Doctor,” she said, “if God knows I’m worth it, that’s all that matters to- me.”
Labourer is worthy of adequate reward; anything less than that is fraud. Injustice in any form, anywhere is to be denounced and condemned. But as the good nurse makes it clear that injustice done to her is not reason enough for her to do anything less than her best. Her service as well as that of many others in several other fields is a matter of life and death for many who depend on it. That is precisely why “strikes” in essential services are forbidden. Service for the service’ sake is the norm. We can not sufficiently stress the need for adequate compensation for those who render such essential services.