“I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing.” So says Doctor Paul Farmer, a wonderful human profiled in Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains.
While Doctor Farmer’s statement might be considered radical, or even inflammatory, to me it was an awaking of hope and a call to action. His words reflect a straightforward acceptance of purpose and conviction in the face of overwhelming resistance that I find deeply moving. In a world where it is all too easy to find signs of decay and despair, Farmer’s statement is a clarion call to salvation. Because of his example, I believe humankind will survive.
The hard truth is that the world is a mess. In such circumstances, it is easy to speak of hopelessness. I have questioned myself, my faith, and human nature in search of the cause, the root of what makes us drive ourselves to the brink of destruction. Finding no answers, I was in dire need of hope, and in response, God moved in mysterious ways and lead me to Kidder’s book.
It is truly hard to find hope and sustain it in this world: Doctor Paul taught me that the fight is fought no matter what, that we never quit, even if we’re loosing. To not fight is to give in, and giving in is unacceptable. After reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, I heard of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett contributing much of their wealth to causes such as Dr. Farmer’s Partners in Health. I learned of U2 lead singer Bono’s One Campaign, and the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. From these wellsprings came fresh energy, focus, and hope.
And finally, the lessons sunk in and ushered me to action. What can an itinerant writer and guitar maker from Fort Worth do to contribute to the cause? He can make guitars and donate them to people who have none, or sell them and donate the funds to charity. He can organize an U2charist service at his church, raising funds for Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. He can help facilitate a benefit concert for a church and a community in Mississippi wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.
And he can have hope, and sustain hope, and believe that we all can make a difference. Just ss Partners in Health ministers to the poorest of the poor, and not to governments or agencies, so we all can hope and help and believe, one by one; and in so doing, we can change the world. This I believe, that as Doctor Farmer noted to friends in Haiti, the invitations for what to do are there for the taking, if we, “Listen to the messages from angels.”
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