overcast. january thawish. temperature at 10:45 pm, 33°
Paul Farmer is talking to Campbell Brown about the state of the most overwhelming disaster we’ve seen since Katrina on this side of the world, and all I can think about is the day he told me, “Tara you do good work here.” I was answering the door for the Department of Social Medicine, and the phone, and ordering office supplies, and Paul Farmer stopped to say I do good work- when people like Bill Gates wanted his ear to talk about infrastructure in Africa. That did my 23 year old heart proud. Funny to see people you’ve met on TV or to read about them in books. Picked up Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains off the bookshelf and started thumbing through again. Weirdly post-modern holding the book, watching the interview. Later watched Kidder on Rachel Maddow, started paying attention to my underlinings. Notes in books are little time capsules you send yourself. I try to imagine why I underlined these things so many years ago.
I was looking around in my mind for a consoling way to view the roadside sights and also, frankly, for somethinkg likely to impress Farmer. A fragment from my religious education bubbled in. I said, ‘if you’ve done it unto the least of them, you’ve done it unto me’.
‘Matthew twenty-five,’ said Farmer. ‘Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ He went on, paraphrasing, ‘When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you took me in. When I was naked, you gave me clothes. When I was sick, when I was in prison, you visited me. The it says, Inasmuch as you did it not, you’re screwed.’ He smiled, swerving around another giant rut in the road.
At this point, Paul’s just the most recognizable face of PIH, but there are hundreds of people who make Partners happen. The best part of PIH in Haiti, is that it is mostly run by the people who live there. Yes, there are medical clinicians from the US, and volunteers, and drugs and funds from other places. But it is the Hatians who do the majority of the work in PIH’s medical centers on the island. Right now, they don’t need to fly folks in to help the injured. Right now, because these centers were not affected in the quake, they are set up and ready to care and help the helpless.
It’s been almost seven years since I worked for Harvard Med, or saw any of the fabulous people who worked in the office at PIH, but still I hold their work close to my heart, and have been thinking of them often as I watch this coverage.