“To Repair the World” – Part VII of a conversation with Stan and Jay

By Stan Le Quire of Eastern University and Jay Renfro, member of Nashville A Rocha

Jay and Stan are two guys who dream about changing the world. Together, they are reading Paul Farmer’s To Repair the World. Paul has a great reputation as someone who changes the world. This week, Jay and Stan are talking about the seventh of Farmer’s speeches, “Medicine as a Vocation”.

STAN TO JAY: You know, I am really enjoying this collection of Paul Farmer’s speeches. If he ever is in my area I will have to attend his event! In this installment of our blog, we are in the seventh chapter of To Repair the World where he challenges some medical graduates to practice medicine as “a quiet miracle.” He draws upon his experiences repairing cleft palates and deftly discusses our “world cleft in two: the haves and the have-nots.” You and I both come from medical families; we belong to “the haves.” So, my question to you is the question he poses to his audience: “How has awareness of our good fortune informed your choices so far?”

JAY RESPONDS:  I’m afraid I don’t have a very sophisticated answer for you. Being aware of the cleft is more than just feeling bad about it—pity doesn’t really do much unless it kicks the spurs into you to do something about it. I’ve been thinking that the first step for repairing the cleft between “haves” and “have nots” might be pretty simple: sutures. And those sutures are you and me.

It’s easy for people on both sides to see the other side as a “have” or “have not.”  This year I have worked with an awesome bunch of kids. To society at large, they’re labeled as “disadvantaged” or “underserved” or something like that. To me, they are children with names and aspirations. I did a sneaky thing this year, in that I frequently blended the “haves” and “have nots” in my life together. What happened is that relationships formed. And so this is my unsophisticated response to how awareness of my good fortune has informed my choices so far—it’s made me want to share. You can only do that with people you love.

JAY TO STAN: A big mistake I made this year was to accidentally preach a sort of prosperity gospel to my students—“If you do these things and not those things, then you can have these things when you’re older.” But the point of “repairing the world” isn’t to convert the “have nots” to the social status of the “haves” or stealing from the “haves” and giving to the “have nots.” Farmer speaks of “good worth fighting for.” What are those good things that the haves and have nots are fighting together for?

 STAN RESPONDS: I’ve made those mistakes, too. I once attempted to befriend 2 boys from an economically-stressed neighborhood in Knoxville. I tried to teach them that they did not need money to be rich; they could be rich in Jesus. My lesson fell flat on its face. The boys would not believe that one could be rich without money.

Anyway, back to your question, which I think you answered yourself when you mentioned relationships. Let’s fight for the good of mutual relationships. Honest, mutual relationships will grow love. Let’s fight for dignity. Both “haves” and “have nots” want dignity. We can share dignity with others by being truly humble and by listening to their stories and by participating in their lives. Like you said, Jay: “You can only do that with people you love.”

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