Meet little Mialy, Mia, and their father…known simply as Baba. They—along with 15 other siblings—made up my host family during a time spent in the arid region of southern Madagascar, where I was doing research on the Antandroy communities.
I often think back to this family with bittersweet fondness. When I was there, I was profoundly inspired by their love for life and their appreciation of the simple joys it brings…while endlessly cheered by their wide grins and generous laughter.
But now, when I glance at this photo, their visage seems to reveal a truth much deeper…and my heart aches a little.
Nevertheless, the sound of their laughter will remain with me forever, and I am thankful to have met them…and grateful for the lessons they taught me in treasuring the simple moments in life.
Dedicated to all whose compassion serves as a light in this world…
like a vessel of alabaster
rent for its salve
she is an ointment
upon bleeding souls
and wounded flesh
a river of compassion
forged with an oath
fueled by a vision
those hands of clay
guided by light
with a wisdom
paid with a price.
is this touch that
saves and soothes
comforts and mends
by the pulse of
a heart constrained
by its own calling
the candle within
softened by flame
its waxen tributary
a remembrance to
the joys and sorrows
gains and losses
in the care for mankind.
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A medical student. A simple question.
“How am I supposed to go on caring?”
At the time, suggestions abound.
Work-life balance. Self-care. Hobbies.
Remembering our initial calling.
Remembering we still make a difference.
Remembering our love for medicine
and the privilege we have as caregivers.
But then the realization-
I don’t know the answer.
I only know that I have witnessed around me-
at every stage of training and practice-
evidence of emotional exhaustion.
So this is my plea.
A plea as we
embark further into
the world of medicine.
never to lose the satisfaction
we experience in caring for others–
the thrill savored
when we supported our first patient,
the warmth felt when families embraced us,
entrusting us with their care,
to preserve our love,
That despite challenges faced,
we refuse to lose what we have gained.
That despite the obstacles
in an ever-changing environment–
despite the self-doubt, criticism, personal struggles–
despite the constant immersion into death and suffering
and the consequent self-preservatory layers
of emotional shield–
That we would continue
Because this is my hope for the future.
That we would never lose the simple joy of helping others