Can I get a witness?

I am a big fan of Scot McKnight’s “Weekly Meanderings” feature on his blog. He consistently links to stories and reflections that engage me on multiple levels, and this past week was no exception. He included a link to a blog belonging to a pediatrician serving in Haiti, and to a particularly compelling description of what it means for this woman to live and serve in the midst of great human suffering.

I was struck by the raw and profound inequality of how life and death look depending on where you live. Reading her account of mothers, desperate in their quest for medical care for their newborns, made me ache, and was especially sobering having just given birth in a room filled with medical professionals just waiting to jump in should there be any crisis or need.

I was also moved by the words of someone in the comments section of the post. This person wrote:

Well every story and every person needs a witness. You are that witness–proof to the world and the person him/herself that the injustice and grief is acknowledged.

Those two sentences captured what I have often felt in my years of living and working among the urban poor. That in those moments when I feel (and am!) so powerless and small, there is something about being a witness. Maybe that is in part how this blog functions as well.

When kids are shot in the ghetto, one of the ways they are mourned is with airbrushed t-shirts bearing their photo, or with shrines, and often through tattoos or even decals on cars. Having walked with my kids in Chicago through the mourning of one of our own, I remember how all of these were used to somehow announce or “witness” that Jamar had existed. And I recall how painfully important that felt to all of us.


  1. I’d encourage you and all to read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder if you haven’t already.

    Remarkable doctor Paul Farmer committed to Haiti. Pulitzer prize winning journalist telling the story.


  2. I have noticed something amongst the blogs I frequent, and this is no way a blanket generalization, but the women do “lament” really well. The men less so, if they even try.

    In a 1970s Ms. article, Golda Meir said she was often accused of leading with her heart instead of her head. She was unbothered by this, and explained that “those who know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.”

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