Judith Lautner (judith) wrote,
Judith Lautner

Do-gooder books

Because I neglected to decline the selection, I recently received two books from QPB that I knew nothing about. One is True Notebooks, about a writer who teaches a writing class in juvenile hall, to the worst offenders. The one I am reading now, Mountains Beyond Mountains, is about a doctor who spends his life trying to improve the conditions in Haiti. These summaries don't do justice to the subjects of these stories, true stories about do-gooders. True Notebooks is written by the writer and focuses on the students. Mountains Beyond Mountains is written by a friend of the doctor, and focuses on the doc.

The doctor, Paul Farmer, makes fun of "WLs", "white liberals", while at the same time is deeply grateful to them. His definition of a WL is a person who sends money. Doesn't get uncomfortable. He contrasts the WLs with persons like the nuns who work on the ground, tirelessly, doing without themselves so they can help others.

Farmer, in this biography by Tracy Kidder, goes well beyond providing his tireless attention to the poorest people in the western hemisphere. He understands the politics and is happy to share his understanding. He sounds like a unique, fascinating person, one who happened to be in the right place at the right time, with the right kind of passion. In addition to treating the sick, giving each one his whole attention, he develops programs to fix the core problems, he teaches other doctors, and he writes. You ask, when does he sleep? and the answer is, he doesn't.

I will never be this type person, the one who gives up physical comfort so easily. But I can do more than I do now. I'm open to suggestions.

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