“I and mine do not convince by arguments, smiles, rhymes;
We convince by our presence.” (Walt Whitman: “Song of the Open Road” 1900)
A major distinctive of Project C.U.R.E. is that we never send anything anywhere unless we have gone personally to that particular requesting hospital or clinic in that country and completed a comprehensive “Needs Assessment Study.” That’s the way we determined the appropriate medical goods to be donated.
Occasionally, we will have a requesting organization give us a little “push back” by saying, “Well, you don’t have to travel to our hospital. We can tell you what we need and you can simply send it.” But, over the years, our policy has proven to be a part of wisdom. Even though it has cost us in commitment, risk of danger, and extreme inconvenience, yet, the investment has yielded great benefit in return.
My answer to the nay-sayers has been very simple. “We are not here to simply take orders for medical goods or to distribute inventory, we are in business to build lasting relationships. The most successful way to accomplish that is to come, meet you face-to-face, walk the hallways of your institution, develop a relationship, and together discover how we can all become better off.”
Many times in the past 25 years, the hospital directors, the department heads, the nurses and upon occasion the Ministers of Health, hugged me and wept, saying, “Why would you come all the way from America to meet with us personally and help us with our desperate needs? No one has ever before cared that much.” Our presence validates their dignity and self worth. Our visit is symbolic and bears witness to our kind, nonjudgmental acceptance. Even though our new partners often feel embarrassed, inferior, and almost ashamed about the condition of their hospital, yet, we come there with love and a demonstrated desire to help. Our presence becomes almost like we are holding their hearts in safe-keeping.
I have met so many doctors and nurses in the hospitals and clinics in developing countries that are worn to a frazzle and discouraged to the core because they are forced to watch their patients die for the lack of simple supplies and pieces of medical equipment. There seems to be no answer. With our presence we claim a space to join them in their struggles, and suddenly their eyes become alive and they are emboldened to take a new grip with their tired hands.
There is a sense of joy and humility that comes when given the opportunity to share your own presence, and also share the symbolic presence of goodness. Presence is the immediate proximity of a person, an invisible spirit that can be felt, shared, and appreciated. It’s just a whole lot easier to accomplish that when you are close by and not halfway around the world. Our presence validates the reason why we have come. And during the time we spend together, our presence allows for the evaluation of our intentions and our attitudes as well as our behavior. Every time I travel to a foreign venue, I pray that those with whom I meet will be influenced by my presence and affected by a sense of peace.
Yes, I believe that Walt Whitman was on to something when he wrote, “I and mine do not convince by arguments, smiles, rhymes; we convince by our presence.” But I also know that the concept did not originate with Walt Whitman. In the Scriptures, millennia before, God gave us a powerful insight into his wisdom and personality. He gave us eleven names that he ascribed to himself and indicated that he would like to be referred to by the same. Each name starts with “Jehovah” and describes a certain attribute. One of those names is “Jehovah Shammah,” which means “the Presence of the Lord.” I suppose that has something to do with willingness to go, being near, convincing, intention, and validation. If that’s true, then it seems good enough reason to build company policy on the same. “YOUR PRESENCE IS REQUESTED”