Break the Chain Fleming, Churchill and Penicillin

1/15/2001 (6/15/2003) National Friendship Week strikes again. Wasn't last week friendship week? No, wait a minute, didn't we have one of those last month... and the month before? This time, we're being asked to show our friends we care by sharing a fantasized tale of doubtful validity.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Subject: Friendship

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself.

Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

"I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life." "No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer.

At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel.

"Is that your son?" the nobleman asked.

"Yes," the farmer replied proudly.

"I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of." And that he did.

Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, he graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time?

Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill.

His son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.

Someone once said: What goes around comes around.

Work like you don't need the money.

Love like you've never been hurt.

Dance like nobody's watching.

It's National Friendship Week

Send this to everyone you consider a FRIEND.

Pass this on, and brighten someone's day.

Nothing will happen if you do not decide to pass it along.

The only thing that will happen, if you DO pass it on, is that someone might smile because of you.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

The notion that every personal encounter is an opportunity to touch someone else's live or have ours touched in a way that not only changes our future, but perhaps that of mankind, is a common theme in urban legends and chain letters. Unfortunately, the path Alexander Fleming took to his place in history did not include the chance encounter described above.

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The legend above has been told and re-told for decades, and has appeared in varying versions in print publications dating back to 1950. However, no reputable Churchill or Fleming biographer has reported anything like it. Not surprising, since the events described are very unlikely.

The Fleming farm was in a remote rural region, somewhere a statesman like Lord Churchill would be unlikely to be "passing through." Fleming the younger's desire to become a doctor was encouraged not by the grateful gift of a stranger, but by the lead of his older brother. He paid for his education with an inheritance from an uncle, not from an appreciative benefactor. Though the history books do show Churchill overcoming a case of pneumonia, his treatment did not include penicillin, nor was Fleming part of the medical team that treated him.

Many chain letters are forwarded in the name of "National Friendship Week," but don't fool yourself into believing this is some officially designated observance. There is no official sponsor of National Friendship Week in the United States and an internet search turns up hundreds of references to it, all with varying dates (if a date is provided at all).

Of course, there is no real harm in telling your friends you care about them, but make sure you're sending the right message. A recent survey of readers identified friendship chains as the most annoying type of chain letters. Most say they'd prefer a visit or personally written note from you, expressing genuine concern and friendship. Make every week friendship week and break this Chain!

What Do You Think?

Category: General Junk
References: Snopes.com

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