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By Jim Raftus, contributing writerThese are dark times. Even a 75 year old optimist sees the darkness. We are facing a worldwide pandemic, burgeoning wars, and a divided America. My solace comes from finding pinpoints of light. Leonard Cohen sings these lines in his song, Anthem: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”Dr. Paul Farmer co-founder of Partners in Health (PIH) dedicated his career to bringing medical aid to impoverished people across the globe. PIH began in 1987 as an effort to treat rampant tuberculosis among indigenous people in Haiti. His work has evolved into 16 medical facilities around the world. Dr. Farmer, who earned his MD and PHD at Harvard, re-invented medical care by forming local community teams of trained Haitians to be PIH’s emissaries keeping close track of medical needs of the villagers.Dr. Farmer made numerous difficult treks, often walking several miles to visit the shanty family homes of his patients. Universally loved by his staff, one of them wrote him an e-mail as the doctor was en route back to Haiti after an absence: “Dear Polo, (his nickname) We are so glad we will see you in a mere matter of hours. We miss you. We miss you as the dry, cracked earth misses the rain.”Dr. Paul Edward Farmer died unexpectedly on February 22nd at the age of 62 in Butaro, Rwanda.One of the many heartfelt tweets honoring Dr. Farmer after his passing came from, appropriately, Chef Jose Andres. He wrote: “Paul Farmer was a hero to all of us who try to dedicate our skills to the service of others. His brilliance was only matched by his empathy. I miss him already.”Chef Andres provides sustenance to the needy in the same manner in which Dr. Farmer provided medical care. Since founding World Central Kitchen in 2010 to assist Haitians devastated by the earthquake, Andres’ team has travelled to multiple countries as well as U.S. cities hit with strife. Far from the tranquility at the nearly 20 restaurants with which Chef Andres is affiliated, he personally supervises the amazingly rapid responses World Center Kitchen provides in times of great need.I was fortunate enough to meet Chef Andres when he filmed a PBS special in my company’s showroom. He was boisterous, larger than life, yet humble at the same time. Currently, he and his crew are already situated at the Polish border to Ukraine, feeding the starving refugees. His compassion knows no bounds!Of course, right now in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a former comic, is attempting to hold his country together against a violent invasion by Russian troops. Alternately appearing in a flak jacket with his troops and on social media rallying the citizens, Zelenskyy is bravely trying to defend democracy. While his career in comedy and television is often cited, he also earned a law degree and established a successful TV and film production company before being elected President in 2019 with an astounding 73% of the votes.Before the Russian invasion he attempted to reduce political corruption and the undue influence of oligarchs in Ukraine. Now he is listed as Russia’s #1 target for assassination.A doctor, sadly gone, a chef and a comic.
These are three pinpoints of light brightening up the darkness of our current condition. It does my weary soul good to think of them and the many other men and women in the world who have the compassion, courage, and charisma to lead civilization to a brighter future.
Jim Raftus retired from a 35 year career in marketing and sales in 2011.
Jim is a Veteran having served in the Army from 1968 to 1971. His primary posting was in Alaska. His Army days served as a chapter he wrote for local author Terry Nau’s book “Voices of the Vietnam War” published in 2019.Jim chronicles the guilt felt by many members of the military who served during Vietnam but were stationed elsewhere.
Jim’s work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Providence Journal, New England Living Magazine and RINewstoday.com
Jim’s higher education journey was an often interrupted 11 year journey which included credits from Roger Williams University, University of Rhode Island and the University of Alaska before finally earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rhode Island College in 1975. Jim was awarded the Outstanding Creative Writing Award at the commencement.
Jim served as the Foxboro correspondent for the Attleboro Sun Chronicle in the late 1970’s.
He is a Rhode Island native and long time resident of Cumberland.
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