I just finished my favorite book of the year, Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar. It didn’t make it on to my best of list because I turned that in before I read this.
MacFarquhar tells us about the lives of several “do-gooders” who do things like live on very little of their income and give the rest away, start a leprosy colony in India, and adopt 20 children; many with special needs. She tells their stories with no analysis or judgments. She doesn’t need to. The stories are so incredible you cannot help but wonder about so many things.
Then there are chapters in between the stories that look at society’s and the psychiatric profession’s reaction to do-gooders. If nothing else, they can make us feel uncomfortable as we compare our lives to theirs. However, she also details our suspicions about them and explanations of their behavior that often make them out to be mentally ill or in actuality, selfish.
I don’t know if this was the author’s desired outcome, but the juxtaposition of the two things made me think how meaningless or irrelevant all the criticisms were; how petty the suspicions.
I could only be left to admire these people and their efforts and feel for them as they struggled in these situations and themselves questioned what they were doing.