That's Why We're Here

In the first episode of "Call the Midwife"—a British show about post-WWII midwives—the main character Jenny Worth is just starting as a midwife in the East End of London. She experiences a moment of disgust and overwhelm at witnessing the awful experience of one of her expectant mothers. She apologizes later to the nun she works with by saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't know people lived like this."

Sister Julienne replies, "But they do... and it’s why we're here."

This line really moved me. Perhaps the most important thing I've learned from people in poverty is that what they’re experiencing is real no matter what my own personal feelings about it are — whether it's right or wrong, whether it should be or shouldn't be. Their experiences don't go away simply because I don't want those experiences to be there. Their lives are real. And so before anything else, before solutions or judgements or disgust or even overwhelm is the simple gentle call to witness, cleanly and openly, what is real. The only word I have for this is love.

To me, this is a tribute to all the people throughout the ages who have witnessed the horrors and hardships of humanity and rather than turn away, judge, or fix, simply began with, “But they do, and that's why we're here."

About the Author

Forrest Gilmore

Rev. Forrest Gilmore is the Executive Director of the Shalom Center, a resource center in Bloomington, IN for people experiencing extreme poverty. He is a Unitarian Universalist minister and a graduate of Cornell University and Starr King School for the Ministry.

For more information contact .

In uniform and cap, a Sierra Leonan midwife presses her ear to a listening tube, resting on a pregnant woman's belly.