I saw Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctor's Without Borders while in New York this past weekend. The film follows four volunteer doctors during a tour with MSF (Médecines Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders). This wasn't a film about MSF however, it was a film about the individuals who have decided to serve with MSF. It investigates the reasons behind the decision to go, the pressure of having to practice medicine in extreme circumstances, and how these experiences affect each doctor. It offers a full view of the joy, pain, difficulty, and conflict inherent in the work. I was unaware that MSF only operates in emergency situations and when the emergency passes then MSF moves on. It doesn't mean that these areas now have a functioning medical system, but MSF's mission is not to take the place of the Ministry of Health or a country's own healthcare structure, but to provide care when it is most needed. So doctors go to live in a place for six months, often a place where there is struggle, men with guns, and people with health problems that are severe and do the best that they can. And doing the best that they can in these circumstances often means making difficult choices, doing surgery with less than ideal equipment, watching people die, and questioning whether this is the best that they can do. One of the doctors says in an interview that doctors in MSF are not special, that anyone put into this circumstance would act because they have to. I wonder if this is true, I think she is right that they are not special, that they are doing what they have to do, but it is because they can see it as something that they have to do. This vision is crucial to people doing this type of work. Each of the doctors in the film saw a need for them to go (for whatever reason) and each then has the ability to see the choices in their practice once they are there. I do not know that everyone is aware in this way. It is why some people go beyond limits, why some do amazing things, they can see that there is a choice, that the lot they have been given is not limiting. They are aware of their possibilities and that not all of these possibilities are going to be easy to realize. Healing someone in the middle of a war zone is not always going to be successful, but one can decide to try to heal the person in need and accept the risk of failure. 

I am particularly interested in these ideas because of the choices that I am making in my own life. I have spent the last three years working with youth in Baltimore City. Urban places are the closest thing to a war zone in the States and people have questioned my decision to be here. I also have considered traveling to do the work that I do and live alongside people who do not have access to the resources that we have here. In relation to both of these circumstances I have heard people comment that they could or would "never be able to do that." I wonder what makes them limit themselves in this way. What makes me do the work that I do? Why am I drawn to it? Why do I see it as possible?

When I am exhausted of course I question my decisions more, but when I am again healthy and well-rested I know that it is what I must do. People living in emergency need doctors. People living in another type of emergency need community and art. To see this need and to decide to act on it is important and necessary, but also will come with some of the most difficult choices a person has to face.