Sunday, April 4, 2010

If Only I Could Become and Ant!

Recently, I was having a conversation with a few of my classmates, and we stumbled across an interesting aspect of a physician. We were discussing living situations and our plans for next year. I was thinking out loud as a I often do that I was considering living in "Over the Rhine" a particular bad neighborhood in cincinnati with numerous homeless shelters.

"but it isn't safe, and you could have your car broken into, or have things stolen. And you don't know what unsafe neighborhood is really like," my roommate replied.
"But if I want to work more with the homeless, how can identify with them at any level when I live far away in a nice suburban and 'safe' neighborhood," I countered.
"You can always travel and give them care while living elsewhere, and that will do just as much good." 

I could see now that there was no point in explaining that the safest place was where I was doing the Lord's will, or that our goals in medicine were at all the same. To him affecting change was to change the physical manifestations of a set of diseases.

I remembered a very important sermon illustration I heard from my dad several times, in several different sermons:

There once was a boy who was watching an ant hill with all of its ants coming and going working very diligently not at all concerned with the boy. Suddenly a few sprinklers came on in a yard close by and the boy watch as a flood of water was coming straight for the ants. So he tried directing the ants away from the flood, but they continued around him. He then tried chasing them and scaring them, but it was to no avail. The ants simply would not listen. Finally, the boy cried out in his frustration, "Oh! If only I could become and ANT! then I could tell them of the flood and save them all!"

Now this was used to illustrate one reason in which Christ became a man, but it may also be applied to physicians. How are we to tell people of the impending flood health problems if we live away from the injured and cannot understand our patients. We must become one of them; simply put, we must be human as they are human. 

As a final note, if you haven't been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Start! He is exemplifying this quality for the health of people, meeting them at their level and trying to change their lives.


Anonymous said...

I somewhat understand where you're getting at. Giving you the benefit of the doubt I'll assume what you really mean to say is that as physicians we'll give better care if we're actually members of the communities we serve.
But I gotta say I find your Christ (and ant hill) analogy patronizing especially if you going to somehow suggest it applies to our profession. If you come from that perspective you'll never be anything more than a "tourist" when it comes to actualizing social justice. You don't "become" one of "them". You ALREADY are one of them. So the sooner you realize you're not "becoming" an ant and that you're just an ant already just like we all are, the sooner you'll stop viewing these altruistic forays as bringing your goodness to the people. You'll realize the real truth: that you're in a partnership with equals (your patients) to build god's will on earth.
To God you're no better than a drug-abusing homeless child abuser. I know in our earthly society we can parse those categories, but to god we all fall so far from the Glory it doesn't really matter. And it's his judgment that matters. One of the reasons we need His grace for salvation. We can't earn it. So pretending you're lowering yourself to be with the underserved is a bit like two fleas pretending the dog they live on cares who has nicer legs.
You're not helping the underserved. We're all underserved. We're in it together to help each other.

Keep up the good work.

Colin said...

You are absolutely correct in assuming that I was referring to the physician differently than Christ. I was not making the analogy to physicians and christ but to the boy and the physicians. In that we must be among a people to understand that people, and was then applying that to the conversation about living situations.

Thanks for reading, you are very astute commenter, please comment more.

Elisabeth said...

We caught an episode of Jamie's Food Revolution and liked it, too. We were really intrigued by it because food is a passion of ours, but you make a good point, too.