I spent three days of my spring break listening to people at a global health conference speak about the unspeakable violence of health inequity in our world. I say violence because the inequity includes millions of unnecessary and preventable deaths. On the last morning I heard Dr. Paul Farmer, who had returned from Sierra Leone just yesterday relay the tragic death of one of the only two surgeons in the entire country. He died from Ebola. Let’s be clear about the fact that the magnitude of the Ebola outbreak was absolutely, without a doubt, unnecessary and preventable. Sierra Leone is home to a large supply of rubber; yet a major failure in the effort to slow the spread of Ebola in that very country was the lacking supply of rubber gloves provided to healthcare workers on the front lines. While you and I are driving around on tires made from rubber, physicians and nurses in Sierra Leone are going without gloves. Violence. There are solutions, but they require preferential treatment of the poor. They require that humanity radically change her priorities.
I left the conference with a jumbled mess of ideas and emotions in my mind. I walked a mile through Boston’s atrocious spring weather to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in hopes that maybe some beautiful art would offer some clarity; I was not disappointed. For reasons unbeknownst to me, a kindhearted museum employee invited me into a Boston Children’s Chorus concert for which I had not purchased a ticket. Maybe she sensed that the music inside was just what I needed. This choir is made up of children between the ages of 7-18 and spans races, religions and socioeconomic status. The theme of the concert was “Conflict and Courage.” It provided a luscious space for me to both acknowledge the feelings of anger and despair I feel when I think about the gross injustices of our world, and allowed me to cling to the craziness of hope. Coming from a science focused conference, I was struck by the power of art to penetrate so deeply. Following are the lyrics from two songs sung by this beautifully diverse group of children. The first offered me space to grieve and the second encouraged me to remain hopeful.