What I Might Say if I Could

Stephen Dunn

You’re a Hutu with a machete, a Serb with orders,

you’re one more body in a grave they made you dig.

Or, almost worse, you’re alive to tell the story,

the most silent man on earth.


Here, rhododendrons are blooming, and cicadas

are waking from their long sleep.

I need not tell you how fast a good country

can become a hateful, hated thing.


Born in the wrong place at the wrong time

to parents wronged by their parents

and ruled by some crazed utopian with a plan –

no ice-cream cone for you, no summer at the shore.


I know you can’t believe suffering leads to anything

but more suffering, or that wisdom waits

in some survivor’s room at the end of a hall.

What good to tell you that sometimes it does?


Sometimes has the future in it, and wisdom,

you must fear, is what victors think is theirs.

You can’t even be sure of a full bowl

of rice, and you’ve forgotten how to sing.


Clouds with periods of sun, says our weatherman.

Unlike some of us, he never intends to lie.

Many here who look no further than their yards

believe God has a design.




David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.




 Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you

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Back to School

In case you somehow missed it or don’t have the academic year permanently emblazoned on your psyche, children are heading back to school. Facebook is full of posts of my friends’ children on their first day, and they are adorable — proud, exasperated, so much more grown-up than last year. My nephew had this ridiculously hilarious and nerdy statement in response to his parents walking him to school for his first day of second grade: “Depart from me or I shall become a laughingstock!”

In Kenya, Dorothea has been scraping together every bit of money that she can. As the new school year, she needs to buy a new uniform if her granddaughter, Dinah, is going to attend high school. The regulation blouse, skirt, socks, and shoes cost far more than Dorothea has left at the end of one month, or even six months.

school girls_kisumu

The total price for Dinah to go back to school comes close to $50. It seems impossible.

School attendance is a sacrifice of love and community in a place like Kenya. Dorothea and her granddaughter have been getting by on just one meal a day for the last few weeks to save a few shillings. An empty belly in exchange for an education. Dorothea has gathered small amounts of money from her two remaining adult children, from her neighbors, from her pastor and her prayer group. Money from anyone she can think to ask. Everyone is asking at this time of year. School fees, school uniforms, books. Everyone comes together to contribute what they can.

Dinah’s parents both died in the past 18 months, and Dorothea now holds Dinah’s future in her hands. Hands with knuckles swollen from arthritis and age and 60 years of cleaning houses count out one crumpled small bill after another in the school uniform store, praying that they will be enough. Enough to launch her granddaughter into a future of promise.

What if $50 means that Dinah will not go to high school?

This story is echoed around the world. This is what back-to-school looks like around the world: Mothers, fathers, grandparents, communities making sacrifices to launch their children into a better future. Everyone circles round to contribute whatever they can, to fan the small flame of hope.

Investing in education – especially education for girls – is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. When you send girls to school, economies change, women and children are more healthy, and injustices start to be corrected.

Right now, more than 75 million school-aged children are not in primary school (where they should be.) 75 percent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, in places like Kenya. Too many of these children are girls. One in five eligible girls worldwide are not going to primary school.


It’s easy for me to be very nostalgic about my (many) school years. When I see the back-to-school sales for pens and crayons and notebooks, when I see my friends’ cutie pie children in their uniforms, I get nostalgic. But the global back-to-school needs go beyond nostalgia.

How can we open the doors so that more girls in poor places can go to school at all? How can we help girls stay in school so that families and communities and global economies can be transformed?

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Sex Ed, Graduate Level Courses

In case you have questions about what I do in my spare time, the current standby seems to be talking about sex. More specifically, I turn my research skills on exploring all the ideas people have about sex that just are not true.

USA Today published a fun article on our sexpert myth-busting on Sunday and even included a quiz where you can see what grade you would really get in Sex Ed. I love the fact that it is now recorded for posterity that I joke about sex like a sixth grade boy (true!) But since so many of the myths seem to come from fourth grade, I’m still not doing too bad…

USA Today_DontPutThatThere_2014

If you haven’t previously heard our explanations of why it’s ok to have sex the night before a big game or tearing apart the theory that men think about sex every seven second, you can listen to the show “Stand Up! With Pete Dominick” on Indie Sirius XM 102 tomorrow morning at 8am EST.

Of course, you should also buy our book!

Dont Put That in There


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Wordless Wednesday: Fetching Water

fetching water_bike

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Here is the duality of global health: You live every day with beauty and with brokenness pressed right up against your face. You cannot close your eyes to what it means to live in a world where 18,000 children under 5 die every single day, and this is both a precious privilege and a painful burden.

I thought this one was going to die. He came into my clinic in January terribly sick. His parents had both died, and it seemed likely that he would not live much longer either. But we fought for medicines for him and a place at the emergency shelter, and this week, I got this picture of him commemorating his finish of first grade. You cannot put a price on the light in his eyes.


But even as I rejoice in being proved wrong in my predictions of death and in seeing a young one escape from those mortality numbers that almost included him, I get the news of a loss. A small boy with complicated health problems for whom we struggled to find an orphanage home after he was abandoned by his mother who just couldn’t handle the burden of his medical bills and needs. My housemate had fallen in love with him, and I tried to figure out what we could do for him. But our trying was not enough, and this little life ended this week.


Hope and hurt. Faith and failure. Beautiful and brutal. Promise and pain. Global health up close.

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