On a trip back from Iowa today I listened to an excellent book called Mountains Beyond Mountains: the Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder. The book chronicles the life of the Paul Farmer and his remarkable achievements in advancing global health. Kidder followed Farmer for years in his travels all over the world and the result is a book that tells the story of one of the world’s great men. Farmers story left me with the feeling of being impacted, and the suspicion that I would continue to learn as I milled the book over in my head and wrestled with the questions it raises. If recommend the book if you are at all interested in making a sick world well or if you are at all tired of feeling comfortable in your comfort.
Here are some quotes from the book. Thanks to Riches for Good, where I found the quotations.
In his mind, he was fighting all poverty all the time, an endeavor full of difficulties and inevitable failures. For him, the reward was inward clarity, and the price perpetual anger or, at best, discomfort with the world… (210)
[Many people] think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don’t believe that. There’s a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It’s what separates us from roaches. (Paul Farmer, 40)
I think there’s a point where you realize the world has just been revealed to you…It’s sort of, Oh no, things will never be quite the same again. (Ophelia Dahl, 74)
If people could be kept from dying unnecessarily, then one had to act. (102)
Lives of service depend on lives of support. He’d gotten help from many people. (108)
Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. (Margaret Mead, 164)
The problem is, if I don’t work this hard, someone will die who doesn’t have to. That sounds megalomaniacal. I wouldn’t have said that to you before I’d taken you to Haiti and you had seen that it was manifestly true. (Paul Farmer, 191)
I imagine that many people would like to construct a life like Farmer’s, to wake up knowing what they ought to do and feeling that they were doing it. But I can’t think that many would willingly take on the difficulties, giving up their comforts and time with family. (213)
It should be enough to humbly serve the poor. (Paul Farmer, 256)
That’s when I feel most alive, when I’m helping people. (Paul Farmer, 295)