I’ve modified this illustration from Dr David Werner’s book, Where There is No Doctor. I think it nicely illustrates some of the complexities in dealing with social issues of all kinds. As humans, we have different world views and backgrounds each of us interprets life through our own experience and point of view. This issue exists in marriage, family, and local communities not just in clashes between different cultures.

Why is the child sick with diarrhea?

Doctor: “My patient is sick because of bacteria.”

Public health officer: “The child is sick because our village does not have a good water system or use latrines.”

Teacher: “The child is sick because his parents are uneducated.”

Social reformer: “The child is sick because of soical injustice and unfair distrubiton of weatlth.”

Father: “My child is sick because I don’t earn enough money to feed her well.”


Who is right? Are not all at least partly right and offering important insight into the problem? Are there not more partially right voices that are not represented in this cartoon. But to me, this cartoon illustrates the absolute necessity of why we still need to listen to others even after we are confident we have arrived at a correct understanding. It implies that if we listen to others our already partially correct opinions will become more correct. But I see a problem if we think of understanding as a destination rather than a journey. Isn’t it inevitable that we will stop truly listening once we think we have arrived at a correct opinion? Therefore, isn’t it also inevitable that those who conceptualize ‘understanding’ as a journey have the potential for greater ‘understanding’ than those who conceptualize it as a destination? Such a world view would likely promote life-long learning and greater felt need for partnership, collaboration, and community. Sounds a little like humility. Hmmm… I wonder if this is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” ?

Why is this child sick? There are many reasons. But the more important question is, “Why isn’t this child well yet?” ANSWER: Because we don’t have the humility to listen to each other… YET.