Albert Schweitzer dedicated his life to serving Africans near Lambarene, Gabon. At the age of 30, he left a secure position in the clergy, a growing reputation as a theologian and scholar, and an emerging career as a concert organist to enroll in medical school. After years of study, he became a medical doctor and established (with his wife Helene) a hospital in a remote region along the Ogouwe River upstream of Lambarene. Except for absences during World Wars and occasional visits to Europe, he would spend the rest of his left working at the hospital as surgeon, administrator, builder, and supervisor. Once the hospital was established, doctors, nurses, and staff from many areas of the world contributed volunteer help.
One of Schweitzer's most famous quotations is a very concise statement: "Everyone can have his own Lambarene." A man or woman need not go to Lambarene to contribute service to others; everyone can find a "second job" that provides direct benefit to other life. While famous, the exact source of this quote has long been unclear. Fortunately, in May of 2006 Dr. Walter Munz provided the following description of a conversation he had with Albert Schweitzer (translated by Patti Marxsen).
"When in August of 1963 I was leaving Lambarene after my first stay to return to Europe, I was standing in front of the Great Docteur to bid him farewell. I had planted such profound roots in this place among these people that my heart was heavy. I could not completely hold back my tears, something that Albert Schweitzer could see very clearly. He then said to me: "Let's give thanks that you were here and that you will always be able to come back again. But there is not one Lambarene; each person can have his own Lambarene." We, neither of us, had any idea when we would see each other again. But it was my destiny to return.
I then told of this thought that he expressed to my father when I came back to Switzerland, and to others after that. And because it is a beautiful and useful thought it has become famous. But it's true: It is not written in any book of the Doctor's, nor in his letters. It was purely oral communication."
In addition, James Brabazon in his Schweitzer biography includes the following statement in a discussion of the changes at Lambarene that followed Schweitzer's death (pg. 500):
"This would not have bothered Schweitzer too much. It was his Lambarene, but as he said to his granddaughter Christiane, when she wanted to go there to help, 'You can have your Lambarene anywhere.'"
Finally, the last page of Erica Anderson's The Schweitzer Album contains the following within quotation marks and above Schweitzer's signature but without other attribution:
"Everyone has his Lambarene."
Thus it appears likely that Schweitzer commonly shared this comment with those wanting to serve with him at Lambarene. While the quote does not show up in his writings, it is certainly a true, original Schweitzer quotation.
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