Dear Friends,

 As we build the Beloved Community, we pray for you every day that you might continue to bring it about in your little corner of the world.

 Today's Meditation celebrates the life and work of Paul Farmer. His observation that "The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world."

 We invite you to join us as we commit ourselves to working tirelessly to end systemic and structural racism in our society, in the church, in healthcare, in the workplace--wherever it shows up so that everyone may come to have more abundant life. May this meditation nourish our contemplative-active hearts and sustain all of us in action.

In the spirit of our philosophy of co-creating community and our awareness that the Spirit speaks through each of us, we invite you to share your meditations with us as well. We truly believe that it is God's economy of abundance: when we share our blessings, our thoughts, our feelings, we are all made richer.

We hope and pray that you find peace, healing, hope and the infusion of joy in your life!

With our love and care,

Ron and Jean

MEDITATION; Paul Farmer: "The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world."

Blessed Among Us

Paul Farmer

Doctor, Cofounder, Partners In Health (1959–2022)

Dr. Paul Farmer died suddenly of a heart attack on February 21, 2022, in a hospital in Rwanda that he had helped to found. It was difficult to account for all he had accomplished in his sixty-two years. Advocating for high-quality health care to some of the poorest people on earth, he was a transformative figure who touched the lives of millions—not only those who were sick and poor but also countless young people he inspired with his confidence that another world is possible.

After graduating from Duke, Farmer began volunteering in a hospital in rural Haiti. There he began to realize how much health disparities were a factor of wider social issues—lack of food, transportation, disregard for human rights—as well as social attitudes toward those who were considered expendable. “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world,” he observed.

While a medical student at Harvard, he commuted to Haiti to develop new methods of grassroots care. Eventually, these principles became the foundation of Partners In Health, a global organization devising new strategies for addressing such diseases as tuberculosis, AIDS, and Ebola. While shouldering an enormous teaching load at Harvard, he continued to divide his time with primary care of patients around the world.

Farmer’s life work was deeply shaped by the influence of liberation theology. In a book written with Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, he noted, “If I am hungry, that is a material problem; if someone else is hungry, that is a spiritual problem.”

“People call me a saint and I think, I have to work harder. Because a saint would be a great thing to be.”

—Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer walks with Musa Bangura, head of laboratory services for PIH-Sierra Leone, at Koidu Government Hospital. Photo by John Ra / PIH.

As we remember the life and legacy of Dr. Paul Farmer, we are guided and grounded by his words—tender and powerful, simple and profound.

These five quotes offer just a glimpse into the wealth of knowledge and insights Farmer shared with all of us, captured in books, speeches, and conversations throughout his life.

His words live on in our hearts and minds, especially as we put his teachings into practice every day at Partners In Health and work toward a world where health care is free and accessible to all patients, everywhere.

Here are five quotes from Farmer that continue to inspire us:

1. “Medicine should be viewed as social justice work in a world that is so sick and so riven by inequities.”

Farmer shared this insight in an interview with The Boston Globe. Throughout his life, he aimed to bring the worlds of medicine and social justice together. Guided by what he called “expert mercy,” an “alchemy that mixes compassionate fellow feeling with interventions that save the sick,” Farmer’s vision for the delivery of high-quality care was both medical and moral—and continues to drive forward PIH’s mission.

2. “If access to health care is considered a human right, who is considered human enough to have that right?”

These words appear in Farmer’s book Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor, which examines the social and economic forces that are responsible for illness and death among the world’s poor. Farmer’s dedication to the principles of universal health care and social medicine guides PIH’s work, as we tackle the root causes of health inequities and focus our energy against unjust policies and systems in service of the patients who suffer from them.

3. “To pull a million people out of poverty in the last several years, to build stable institutions where none existed—to me, that is about hope and it’s about rejecting despair and cynicism. Those are the two biggest dead ends we’ve got: despair and cynicism.”

Farmer shared these words in Bending the Arc, an award-winning documentary that tells the story of PIH and the movement for global health equity he and PIH leaders helped ignite. A defiant optimism marked Farmer’s life and work, as he inspired millions with his refusal to give in to cynicism and his dedication to the vision of a world where every patient has access to quality care. That vision was called “unrealistic” by some global health leaders, but it led to worldwide access to antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis care in Peru, a world-class teaching hospital in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, and many more revolutionary projects that have saved millions of lives.

4. “Since I do not believe there should be different recommendations for people living in the Bronx and people living in Manhattan, I am uncomfortable making different recommendations for my patients in Boston and in Haiti.”

These words, shared in an interview with Satya magazine in April 2000 on the HIV epidemic, illustrate Farmer’s lifelong commitment to global health equity and the belief in a “preferential option for the poor”—the notion that patients living in poverty should receive the best quality of treatment and care available and such care should rectify the historic and ongoing structural violence that left communities impoverished and health systems weakened.

5. “With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others—or, in a word, partnership.”

Farmer shared this reflection in his book To Repair the World. The book, which is a collection of Farmer’s speeches, casts a lack of health care access and other issues as “failures of imagination”—a phrase Farmer often used to describe world leaders’ apparent inability to fix unjust policies and systems. In the speech, Farmer calls for partnership as the path forward in the face of poverty, climate change, and other seemingly intractable global issues. He was proud that “Partners” was central to the name of the organization he co-founded with his lifelong best friends, Ophelia Dahl, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Todd McCormack, and Thomas J. White. Throughout his life, Farmer exemplified this spirit of partnership, accompanying patients and doctors, students and drivers, and presidents and philanthropists alike.

Upcoming Events

Join us in-person or on zoom for Ash Wednesday Services at 7pm Feb 22.

On Wednesday Evenings during Lent, we will meet from 7-8PM on Zoom using the poetry of Wendell Berry to reflect on Lenten themes.

On Wednesday March 15, at 7:00 PM on ZOOM, Fr. Yaroslav Nalysnyk, Pastor of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain will speak to the community on the War In Ukraine. We have been channeling our donations to the People of Ukraine through him.

(NOTE: The Zoom link for all these events is the same as the Link for Sunday Eucharist:

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