Am I my brother’s keeper?

Lightning strikes

Not a rainbow, but a sign nonetheless!

Friday Morning Message

‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

I have been back in school for a while now, and have had to confront some scary statistics about the state of health in the world. So much depends upon where you are born and where you live. In our backyard, the life expectancy in Haiti for a woman is under 63 years. If you live in Sweden you can expect to live 20 years longer. In Haiti the infant mortality rate before the earthquake was 52 deaths per 1000 live births. In France that number was just over 3. So the question was, does a nurse have a responsibility to try to improve global health? And that was when I remembered the line ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Do we (not just nurses, humans everywhere) have a responsibility outside of our own homes?

Most of us grew up seeing our parents committing selfless acts of kindness every day. In Jamaica, country women routinely cook enough food to share for other less fortunate down the road. No matter how many kids were in your family, there would always be extra people squeezed into bed with you, cousins, friends, someone who needed a ‘cotch’. Before I lived in Jamaica, one of my parents’ social acts of conscience was to greet prisoners as they were being released giving them a Bible and some pocket money to give them a little hand up. Giving to others less fortunate was routine, not something anyone talked about or bragged about. It was part of the human experience.

Nowadays we have become much more cautious, protecting what we have worked so hard for. We respond to the initial catastrophe, but what about 2 years later? In Haiti there are still half a million people who are homeless. It is time for us to be a part of the solution, and not expect others to take on the burden.

I heard an interview with two US city mayors: in New Orleans a young black man is murdered every other day. The mayor said something interesting, that it is time to see violence as a health risk, rather than a social problem. When seen that way, you can start to study the causes and try to prevent, rather than treat and lock up. Most of us who live outside of Jamaica dream of a day when we can move back home and wake up in the cool hills, smelling the Blue Mountain coffee; watching the mist rising from the valleys; hearing the rooster crowing; and feeling that sense of peace you can only experience when you know you are home. But….the thought is always followed by the but… The violence, so scary. Beautiful houses with those wonderfully artistic grill work, ten locks on every door, the reality of a society with a form of cancer that threatens the health of the entire nation.

Am I my brother’s keeper? Do I have a responsibility to try to change things?  Edmund Burke said it best: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” It is time for us to do something, we have to start somewhere. Find a cause, get involved, but don’t do nothing.

Yesterday morning as I drove to work under slate grey skies I was thinking about my Friday morning message. What would I speak about today? All of a sudden I saw a beautiful rainbow. And I realized I could see the entire arc of the rainbow from end to end. What a view! What was this message I was given? As swiftly as it appeared it disappeared and the rain came down. At work I asked my co-worker how they say rainbow in Spanish: ‘arc de iris’ was the answer. The arc of the iris (the colored part of the eye). How beautiful! I was looking through the pupil of the universe.

There are lots of signs in life, and it is up to us to see them and follow them. I hope that in some way I have provoked a thought of the responsibility we have to our fellow human beings, a role to play in leaving this world a better place than we found it. Am I my brother’s keeper? Even if he is gay? Even if she is a junkie? Even if he is a convicted felon?

Have a great Friday family, and a wonderful weekend. And for those who are already involved in some cause bigger than themselves, on behalf of us all I thank you.

One Love family! We are living in One World.


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