As their dinner was being cleared away, Doctor Lemuel Diggs watched his host. Across the table, Danny Thomas rolled a cigar between his fingers, lighting it with a wooden match.
“Now are you going to tell me about this secret of yours?” The doctor inquired.
“Back in Detroit, when things got tough, I told Saint Jude if he’d show me the way, I’d build him a shrine.” The smoke haloed Danny’s head as he spoke “Well, I’ve obviously found the way, so it’s time to make good on my end.”
“I’m not an architect, Danny. I can’t build you a church.”
Danny held up a hand, he hadn’t finished yet.
“I remember when my brother got sick. The sleepless nights my mother spent praying over him, her hope chipping away with each passing hour. No parent should have to go through that.”
He put his cigar down, and looked the doctor in the eyes.
“What I want from you is to help me build a place to give parents back their hope. I want them to know there is somewhere to call when they need help. I don’t want to build a church, Lem, I want to build a hospital.”
Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of Memphis’s crown jewels. Opened in 1962, the hospital has been at the forefront of children’s medicine since its inception. Founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, Doctor Lemuel Diggs and Michael F. Tamer, the hospital was Thomas’s answer to an oath he made to Saint Jude years before. During a hard part of his life Thomas had promised that if Saint Jude, the patron saint of the hopeless, helped him to find his way, Thomas would build him a shrine in return. Saint Jude Hospital was that shrine.