Zuri Watoto Wote

Something personal about why I am taking this trip…….

Posted in AIDS in Africa, AIDS Orphans, Giving back by Lynn Ouellette on 11/26/2009

I am writing this entry on Thanksgiving day because, though I had planned to write this, it seems most appropriate to do so today. I have so far assumed that most people reading this blog will know us, but that’s not true since I will have some generous teachers and students from Maine helping me with with the art project that I will explain more about later, and other people have expressed an interest in making donations, so I should make introductions. “We” are Lynn and Tom, both physicians in Maine in entirely different fields of medicine. Tom is in oncology and hospice and palliative medicine and I (Lynn) am a psychiatrist and am also an artist. I feel that I have been waiting to do this kind of volunteer work for a decade, but not until the time was right for our family. We are extremely lucky to have three healthy children and although I had breast cancer almost 2 years ago, I am in remission now (and expected to remain that way), so Tom and I are both healthy too. I have always been aware that we live an extremely fortunate life. For all of the things that we make take issue with about our country, and if you work in health care that often begins a litany of concerns, we are lucky to have been born here in a safe place where for most of us its not a challenge to eat, stay safe and survive every day. This is the reason why I can never get through a single rendition of the Star Spangled Banner without getting choked up, it’s not patriotism, it’s gratitude. Also, the experience of having breast cancer had the impact of further heightening my awareness of just how fortunate I am and reminded me to try not to take for granted the things for which I am grateful. I realize it doesn’t work this way for everyone, but for me, what comes with that sense of gratitude is also a sense of responsibility for giving back. And although I do that here at home in various ways, that hasn’t felt like enough. I have a tremendously soft spot in my heart for children who can not make sense out of a world that doesn’t provide for them, care for them, or mistreats them. Though it isn’t any fairer for adults, they have more capacity to attempt to make sense of misfortune, tragic circumstances or an unfair world; children, like the orphans of AIDS, have no such capacity and that seems even more profoundly sad to me. For the huge number of a whole generation of adults in Africa who have lost their lives to AIDS, the only way to help them now is to care for their children. Because of my own experience with cancer, I can’t imagine that the worry about what their children would experience wasn’t a huge, maybe the worst, part of their suffering. There are so many children, so many AIDS orphans who need help that it is overwhelming. So it’s from this position of feeling very incredibly fortunate for all that I have, that I feel responsible for giving back in a place where the need is the greatest and the giving may be the most challenging. It doesn’t even really feel like a choice…..it feels more like something I need to do. And to volunteer with AIDS orphans feels right for me.

And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood

and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity another possibility.

And I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.

When it’s all over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

From “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver

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