Bearing Witness

Almost every day in Kenya, I see things that I don't feel I can write about here.


I try to be honest about my work, but I don't want this to be the sick-and-dying baby blog. Sometimes, even I am overwhelmed by my inability to help, my inability to make things better. I don't want to overwhelm anyone reading this too.

It is bad enough that I see babies starving and dying. I don't want that to be the only picture I share with you of this place that is beautiful and broken in equal portions.

Even beyond that are the terrible things that cannot be described for reasons of privacy, legality, and sheer horror - the beating, burning, raping, maiming, and neglecting of children. Every pediatrician sees cases of child abuse in all its horrific manifestations. Every pediatrician mourns the tragedy that not all adults act in ways that promote children's health and well-being. I don't write about those things, but I see them all too often.

Grinding poverty adds a layer of despair. There is just so much that seems beyond our reach. I struggle with the weight of this some days.


I read something powerful this week, on the blog, while in the midst of traveling from one remote, rural clinic to another. As I struggled over the ways that poverty and illness and evil mar the lives of the beautiful children in front of me, these words were really, really helpful to me:

We don't need our lives to be different, or easier, we just need someone to see the pain. To know what we've faced and overcome. To say: Yes. I see this. This is real. We don't need a magician to take it all away - we just need a witness.

Sometimes, there are things that I can do as a doctor to make a patient better, to bring healing and health. Sometimes, there are things that I can do as a researcher and an advocate to change healthcare systems and to put services in place that are desperately needed. I am grateful for those times. I love my job so much because it affords me with so many of those opportunities. All that is within me wants to make things better.

But, sometimes, I cannot make it different or easier or fix it.


It was an important reminder to me that there is value in bearing witness. I see. I write. I tell your story. I carry the image of the injustice you have borne. I tell you that it is real, even if it is only through my doctor's touch or my eyes looking upon your broken body. I witness YOU, marginalized child without a voice, suffering in a forgotten corner of world. I see you.

Lord, help me to have the grace to bear witness.

Posted at 04:01


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