(I’m devoting a longer chapter in a coming book to the memory of Paul Farmer. In the meantime, I’d like to share with the public this thought I had of him on my way to work on Friday, February 25th 2022.)
As soon as I ventured out of my front door this morning, the savage brilliance of the snow storm hit my awareness. I love heavy, stormy snowfalls the way others love hot baths. It’s a distinctive and distinguished attitude from a Caribbean man.
I took a few photographs of my street to eternalize the moment, this kind of moment that doesn’t come every day. At the bus stop, there was no way to reach either of the entrance doors from the sidewalk. A potentially harmful problem. A few yards away, I noticed a young man, shovel in hand as gladiators hold their spears, clearing a driveway. “Would you make a path leading to the bus?” I asked him. “Sure,” he responded with a benevolent facial expression. He then cleared a short pathway, with profuse and gleeful enthusiasm. I thanked him. Before departing, I told him: “Thank you again! You have helped not only me, but also many other commuters who will be taking this bus. Good job, Brother!” He smiled and said simply: “Thank you.”
Amidst the Covid pandemic’s rollercoaster-like stresses, and the sounds of war of conquest coming from the Russia–Ukraine front, war and its serial massacres of real human beings; amidst calls for revenge coming from the Western alliance and Washington hawks; amidst everyday worries over inflation, racist hatred, and the uncertainties of life, it’s refreshing to see human kindness and this sense of service and solidarity.
The young man’s willingness to help reminds me for a moment of my good friend Paul Farmer, who only this past Monday joined the eternal journey of those great spirits who last but an instant, yet whose legacy transcends the frivolity of time. Paul, the indefatigable, who, since our first encounter in 1987, made a preferential option for the poor. He was one of the most authentic and generous persons I have ever met. There was in him this simplicity of temperament married with a formidable intellectual complexity that sees things (and people) in their primal verity, like the verity of a suffering person. He trained his soul to focus only on the ways—any way, all the ways—to find solution to human suffering and socio-economic disparities, regardless of bureaucratic considerations. He couldn’t comprehend that some want us to believe that some lives matter more than others. Good bye, Paul, and thank you for all the things you did and inspired. To you, I say: Présente!