Friday, February 5, 2010

Stand With Haiti

Peter Singer is still battering my heart (see yesterday's post) to such an extent that I wanted to look up John Donne's sonnet of that title. Yet, I cannot stop reading, am eager to finish the book so that I know how much money he thinks I should be able to give away. I am nervous about this. We live on pensions, most of which is taken up with living expenses. But it is feeling imperative to keep reading this and thinking about how I live, eating beef as I please, driving a second car.

Singer is one of those natural teachers, cutting through to clarity about a situation with a Zen-like blade. He describes many people who work to end extreme poverty. Just now I am reading about a doctor, Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners in Health, who has devoted his life to serving the poor in Haiti for many years before the earthquake.

And just yesterday I also got the first letter of this year's pledge campaign from my church. They want a stunning 5% of my gross income. I will pledge, but I am thinking about how my church enhances lives in many ways, including my life, but does not do much to save them. In fact, I think my specific church has not contributed to the national church and its social justice programs for a several years.

Here is where I stopped reading to look up Partners in Health and write this post:
Flying from the peasant huts and their malnourished babies in Haiti to Miami, just 700 miles away, with its well-dressed people talking about their efforts to lose weight, Farmer gets angry over the contrast between developing countries and the developed world.
He seems to have taken the bodhissatva vow to heart.


  1. I heard an interview with Raj Patel who wrote The Value of Nothing. He discussed the way we are blind to the actual cost of everything we consume - both in human and resource terms. Interestingly, reading Joanna Macy today - it's the same message written in 1998. In a decade, I don't know if we have grown in our capacity to look deeply. I don't know that it's realistic to give by prescribed formulae. Not having read Singer, I'm being tentative in my opinion about how to formulate generosity. It is possible however to look at what is true generosity while factoring in our own limited resources - be they financial, time or material.


  2. Dalai Grandma! I jumped out of my chair when I read your post! I am just completing my Masters in Public Health and in the PH world, Paul Farmer is a hero and a pioneer. If you liked reading about Partners in Health you should check out Tracy Kidder's biography of Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains. It is quite an amazing story of a small flame lighting up a large room.

  3. LuLu - I am so frustrated. Sat. night, many people snowbound I guess, and our public library website won't work. I want to reserve that biography, if they have it. Thanks for writing. I love it when we find these ways we intersect.