Gary is a very talented music professor. He lives as passionately inside baroque choral masterpieces as lovers within romance. Music speaks to him in soulful murmurs. Music is the language of his interior journey, the poetry of his pilgrimage within. It was music that led him to meet George over lunch at the rectory which is currently my home in Butte, Montana.
George is a medical doctor and an obstetrician. The first time I saw him, it brought me back to stone figures on the facade of Gothic cathedrals. The prophets and saints they portray have lost the somber asceticism of earlier times. Their expressions are of humble and joyful goodness. Arguably the most beloved among them is the kindly smiling angel of the Cathedral of Reims in France. This is the face I saw when I met George.
Working to offer gifts of health and beauty are among the most meaningful of all professions. But they are not sufficient for George and Gary to find peace, because both are incapable of remaining insensitive to human suffering. Over lunch their conversation soon brought to light a common love for the people of Haiti. It was the beginning of an adventure.
When the wind blows though the pine trees, the pristine forests of Montana sing. Lately the pine beetle infestation has brought silence to parts of the mountain. Dead trees grieve the slopes. The desolation gave Gary the idea of using the wood salvaged from these forests to rebuild Haiti in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. The loss of millions of acres to Montana could be transformed into a benefit for others. For the nearly deforested Caribbean island nation and its impoverished population, it was a brilliant thought. It soon proved as difficult to implement as it was inspiring.
George is immersed in a philosophy of medicine that early Greek Christians called "healing out of love." Offering medical care to the poorest families in Africa and Haiti is his passion. With a very capable team he provides health services to vulnerable women and their families that are preventive, educational and above all empowering. At the time of the lunch encounter he was working on a medical building project in Haiti. It did not take long for the two of them to decide to build it with Montana lumber as a model for future rebuilding.
Gary likens their collaboration to "singing in a choir". Their partnership, George writes, is inspired by "the Power of Nothingness that emerges when people work together for a good completely beyond themselves".
The incomparable Dante famously placed at the entrance of Hell the terrifying warning: "Abandon all hope you who enter here". A multitude of human beings live in the confinement of hopelessness. It defines their existential hell. Among the many factors of this kind of bondage is a poverty that has no escape. It is a night with no promise of dawn. When George and Gary receive pleading emails from their Haitian friends they evoke this infinite sadness. Gary views their poverty as a tragic form of tyranny.
While many prophetic voices, of world religious leaders and economists decry the planet's obscene wealth gap, it widens relentlessly. Even people elected with the mandate of reducing this inequality, seem powerless, unwilling, possibly limited by the stubborn seduction of first serving oneself or an ideology. In the US several observers have noted the bleak irony of the California Bay Area, widely considered the cradle of the "Social Justice movement" yet now the witness of the nation's most unjust gap. It reflects a kind of cynicism that indicts us all and for which none of us is truly blameless.
Givers of hope are essentially liberators. They show the sick, the poor, the incarcerated and the addicted that there is a hopeful promise of exit as long as some others refuse to give up on them. George and Gary represent this quality of people who do not allow unimpressive odds, limited resources and the magnitude of the task to discourage their mission.
George has this rich insight: "Beauty and Tragedy best reveal the communion we share (with all human beings) at the depths of our existence." His stunning capacity for perseverance is unmistakably spiritual. It is deeply rooted in his dialogue of love with God.
The town of Milot is in the North of Haiti. The first structure of the cooperative effort is going there on a bald hill above the town. The center will be built with Montana beetle-killed lumber. It will be the first of several to comprise a multi-building training facility. I like to imagine that it will soon resonate with the musical laughter of children and Haitian folk songs. The beautiful adventure of the musician and physician is bringing hope to the rubbles. After all, says Gary "Music is the best medicine for the soul".
Note and Disclosure: Dr. George Mulcaire-Jones' organization is Maternal Life International and Professor Gary Funk founded Wood for Haiti. Their common Humanitarian project is named Secure Foundations. I have no role in any of these organizations but I have befriended both men and made very small donations to their philanthropic missions