If you don’t already know it, I work with an organization called Medical Ambassadors. It is not a relief organization and it’s not especially a medical organization. Medical Ambassadors is a development organization. What is the difference between relief and development? Primarily it is this: development seeks to help people recognize their own resources and abilities, dignity and possibilities, and helps people figure out ways to improve their lives using the things they have instead of focusing on the things they don’t have. Does that mean that relief is wrong? No, there are times when it is absolutely essential – such as in the aftermath of a tsunami, earthquake or famine. In such cases, it is a life and death situation where food and water, medical care and shelter must come from outside because the infrastructure in a country or area of a country has been destroyed and people are dying without the necessities of life.
Medical Ambassadors will, from time to time, get involved in relief in appropriate ways, but that isn’t our primary concern. We could hand out “fish” to people all day, but tomorrow they will need another fish handed to them. So, we teach people to fish..and then take it one more step: we teach them how to maintain the “lake” for generations to come, so that no only are their lives for the immediate future changed, but their villages and grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren can also have better lives.
When I was in Africa a couple of years back, I took this photo. I have to say that my heart is very compassionate and when I see great need, my first instinct is to jump right in and give something to the person. But that isn’t always the right solution for many, many reasons. As North Americans, we tend to define poverty as the lack of material things (such as shoes in the case of today’s picture I took in Africa of the foot of a young mother), when the greatest poverty is a poverty of the soul that has come to believe it has nothing to offer and is helpless and can only survive by hand-outs.
It’s not easy. Development work takes time. But we believe that rather than continuing to foster dependency on outside organizations (which inevitably will go away), it is far better to work to break the poverty of the heart so people begin to believe in their own abilities and their own selves for solutions that will last. It’s a long, arduous journey, taken one step at a time, but it is a journey worth taking.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1984, Ed Gein, a serial killer infamous for skinning human corpses, died of complications from cancer in a Wisconsin prison at age 77. Gein served as the inspiration for writer Robert Bloch’s character Norman Bates in the 1959 novel “Psycho,” which in 1960 was turned into a film starring Anthony Perkins and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Edward Theodore Gein was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on July 27, 1906, to an alcoholic father and domineering mother, who taught her son that women were evil. Gein was raised, with an older brother, on an farm in Plainfield, WI. After Gein’s father died in 1940, the future killer’s brother died under mysterious circumstances during a fire in 1944 and his beloved mother passed away from health problems in 1945. Gein remained on the farm by himself.
In November 1957, police found the headless, gutted body of a missing store clerk, Bernice Worden, at Gein’s farmhouse. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered a collection of human skulls along with furniture and clothing, including a suit, made from human body parts and skin. Gein told police he had dug up the graves of recently buried women who reminded him of his mother. Investigators found the remains of 10 women in Gein’s home, but he was ultimately linked to just two murders: Bernice Worden and another local woman, Mary Hogan.
Gein was declared mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to a state hospital in Wisconsin. His farm attracted crowds of curiosity seekers before it burned down in 1958, most likely in a blaze set by an arsonist. In 1968, Gein was deemed sane enough to stand trial, but a judge ultimately found him guilty by reason of insanity and he spent the rest of his days in a state facility.
In addition to “Psycho,” films including “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Silence of the Lambs” were said to be loosely based on Gein’s crimes.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: All or part of Shakespeare’s 300 original First Folios still survive.