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Dr. Paul Farmer on Doing Hard Things

Dr. Paul Farmer on Doing Hard Things
Photo by Dim Hou / Unsplash

The world renowned physician and founder of Partners in Health Paul Farmer died a couple weeks ago. His work took him to the poorest and most under resourced people on the planet. When asked what staved off burnout like many of his colleagues, Farmer said:

“Doing hard things with your friends.”

I’ve let that response bang around in my soul for a few days. What factors contribute for people doing the hard things when success isn’t guaranteed and longevity uncertain? How do artists get up every day and make things when inspiration is waning? Where does the pastor get the fortitude to preach another sermon when nobody is listening?

Where does the strength come for a medical professional to keep serving their patients amid a global pandemic with little resources?

I’m guessing the answer is similar to what Paul Farmer suggests… Friends.

Most of us aren’t fighting global poverty and caring for the sick in the Third World. But the work we do always has elements of “hard.” It’s the reality of working under the sun.

I’m willing to guess in those moments when Paul Farmer wanted to quit, in those hard moments, while doing hard things. The difficult things didn’t feel as insurmountable when doing it with others you love.

I wonder how many artists would still make art if they did it with friends? In church world, how many pastors get to do the hard work of ministry with friends? Do they even have someone they’d call a friend?

How about the nurse, engineer, teacher, or mother caring for children? Do they get to do the hard work with friends?

Competency is important and so is character. But friendships while in the trenches of the hard-work matters. Thanks Paul Farmer for your work, that will last for many generations to come. And thanks for reminding us that work is important, but doing it with friends is what will keep us going until the end.

May we all find friends to do the hard work with...

-RJP