melancholy moment that caught me unexpectedly.
As I rode the cab ride in from LaGuardia this evening I experienced unexpected feelings of melancholy. A clear Fall night in Manhattan is a real gift. The air is warm but cool enough for shirtsleeves. The light slices differently at this time of year illuminating profiles of buildings in a way it doesn’t reveal in other seasons. The orange glow of sunset gives a softness to the city’s skyline that is warmer and more compassionate than in any other season.
Having worked in the city for more than a decade in the past, I’ve enjoyed the cycles of change that mark the island and its surroundings. But the melancholy was the result of what I won’t see as I attend the Time Summit on Global Health.
I won’t see some colleagues with whom in the past I worked to change conditions that keep people in many parts of the world in abject poverty, colleagues who shared a commitment to a better world and who refused to accept that the way the world is today is the way it must be. They believed life can be better; especially for those who live at the edge of survival and who struggle everyday just to get through. They believed we who are twice blessed, and more, have a responsibility to work in partnership with those who by accident of birth live in places where poverty and disease drain the human spirit of energy, health and well-being.
Dick died of cancer. Steve, of complications from AIDS. Al, of an aneurysm. Ron, of cancer.
Each in his own way stood for peace and justice, worked for economic development for the poor and for better health care for all, put his life on the line literally by going into situations in the United States and around the globe where violence was destroying lives. I miss them. I miss their courage, their commitment, their embodiment of values that are necessary for us to preserve our humanity. They called us to our best. They opened their arms and included people into the conversation about a more humane future, so different than the conversation we’re hearing today, a conversation that excludes and condemns and closes out options for humanity.
There is so much talk today that instills fear, demonizes others and excludes. These friends I remember embraced possibilities and stood for a world quite different from this. I thought of them as the night approached and I felt glad to have known them and to be influenced by their lives. I felt a measure of sadness that as we meet to consider how to end the scourge of malaria, I will not be able to talk with them and make plans. But I know that they would be encouraged to hear that others are taking up this cause. They would be excited to hear that Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged $230 million dollars to the fight against malaria. (We never had an announcement of that kind of generosity at any of the meetings we attended.)
And on a day when the news brings more reason for sadness, when the institutions of our society embody injustice and exclusion, there is a measure of hope that some are saying the world need not be this way. Healing is possible. Prevention of death-dealing disease is a priority. Humanity deserves better than neglect, exclusion and death.
In this, I place great hope.