Summertime is all about catching up on reading. I keep a continual pile of books by my side at all times. If I am lucky, I come across a book that changes my perspective or reminds me of some important truth.
This summer's thought-provoking book is Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. It chronicles the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist and physician, who is trying to eradicate treatable diseases in places such as Haiti and Peru. It is a book about a visionary who has given up a life of ease and asked the moral question: How can any of us be at peace if the poorest citizens on earth do not have access to food, water, and medical care?
How, indeed. I want my children to know that they have hit the lottery by living in the United States and having access to not only basic necessities but a great education and a safe place to flourish. Millions of their peers do not. I want their generation to turn to ours with outrage in their eyes and ask "How could you not have acted with greater urgency?"
I love this community, which is filled to the brim with loving, caring folks, but I think I have become too comfortable in my privilege. A religious leader once said "My job is to make the uncomfortable comfortable and the comfortable uncomfortable." Our job as parents is to sometimes make our children uncomfortable and expand their world view. Our schools, churches, and community organizations provide a jumping off point to donate money, goods, and sometimes time, but we have to make community and world service a priority within our busy lives. Make a vow this year to renew your commitment to reaching out to others who have less simply by virture of their birthright.
"Beyond mountains there are mountains," is a Haitian proverb that points out the endless nature of the struggle. In Buddhist theology, the first noble truth is simply "Life is Suffering." I think we can still join with ordinary citizens worldwide and chip away at poverty, injustice, and inequality. We owe that to the children of the world.
If you are interested in finding out more about Farmer's work, visit the organization Partners in Health at www.pih.org.