Thursday, June 29, 2006


THE GATES AND BUFFET. Not only have Microsoft's Bill and Linda Gates committed themselves to wiping out twenty leading diseases that impact multiple millions of people around the globe, they've been joined in their effort by the billions of dollars committed by Wall Street tycoon Warren Buffet (not, Jimmy Buffet, kids!). The combined influence and money of Gates and Buffet toward toward wiping out disease on a global scale is unprecedented.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING. I've listened to numerous reactions to Buffet's announcement and analysis of the renewed focus on the Gates' commitment. Responses range from critical and cynical to readiness to canonize the Gates/Buffet duo. Some dismiss the effort as idealistic and utopic. Others call into question the legitimacy of how these extremely rich people have made their billions. Everybody seems to have an opinion. Here's my take:

THE UPSIDE-DOWN KINGDOM. The investment and influence directed toward wiping out the leading death-bearing diseases in the world is an expression of the upside-down Kingdom. My own government has refused to commit itself (and my tax dollars) to wiping out disease or poverty even within our own borders, much less beyond. The government that claims to represent me chooses, instead, to throw billions upon billions of tax dollars into instigating and fighting an uncalled for and unwinnable war and acting like an empire in the name of democracy and free market economics.

CHOOSING BETTER BATTLES. The Gates and Buffet have wisely chosen better battles. Apparently, if disease is to be seriously addressed, it will be done so by a few people who determine to make the difference that is not popular, typical, mainstream, conventional, military industry-pandering, or easy. It is not being attempted by those who make a living/profit/killing by treating/relieving symptoms of people on the presumption that they will perpetually not be completely whole/well.

ATTEMPTING WHAT OTHERS HAVE NOT. There are a lot of other things the Gates and Buffet could have done with their treasure. They have chosen to do what is apparently not seen to be important or prudent in the eyes of other power brokers. And they have done this because of foresight, because of what they have seen and connected. They have looked beyond immediate results to long-term outcomes and impacts. They have found beyond the bottom line a deeper soil in which we all thrive or die. They have seen the devastating impact preventable and curable diseases have on individuals, families, tribes, people groups, nations, regions, and global life. They have made the connections between disease and the cultural, social, spiritual, economic, and quality-of-life challenges faced by most of the world. And they have chosen to act.

BLESSING. I say God bless them. Without sanctifying them or absolving them of one untoward business dealing, may God bless this effort. And God bless all who follow their lead or act in concert with them toward attempting what no one else has. May we live to see the day when those who currently cannot afford simple prescription drugs and who are denied access to basic health services are first in line to receive inoculations for diseases that have defined and limited their lives for generations.

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