Leading With Care

Earlier this year Lilly employee-poet Andrew Embry nearly brought down the house at our 140th anniversary celebration. Today, in honor of our AMPATH partner on Lilly's first Global Health Day, he shares his latest piece.

Some lead with the knowledge.

They use their eyes.

They saw slums and symptoms of poverty.

They saw HIV.

They saw numbers on graphs showing the epidemic was getting worse.

They saw a multitude of people needing help.

They saw a clinic in sweltering heat,

suffocating under all of the people crowded in hospital beds.


Some lead with understanding.

They use their ears.

They heard the guttural groans and the shrill agonizing screams from patients

from cancer that was eating them from the inside.

They listened to the stories from grandmothers

forced to take care of gaggles of grandchildren

after their parents passed away.


Some lead with strength.

They use their hands to take action.

They dig holes, laying concrete in the hot sun,

kicking up the red dirt until you can taste it,

getting bogged down in red earth when it rains.

They feel the hard stubborn earth and push against it with all their might.

They feel rocks too heavy to move.


But you aren’t them.

You are Kenyans and North Americans.

You are united students, faculty, patients, and citizens.

You lead with care.

You use your heart.


And the heart sees things eyes can’t.

The heart sees that those clouds looming

are filled with hope ready to pour down

filled with love

gushing out of sky.

Your heart doesn’t see disease.

It doesn’t see patients.

It sees a person.

It sees the strength in them they thought they had long lost

on their journey of brokenness and emptiness.

Where everyone else sees death and decay,

your heart helps you see a future.


And your heart hears things ears can’t.

It hears that there is no Swahili word for cancer.

Your heart hears her thoughts when she wonders how medicine will help her

when she goes home to cracked floors,

barren cupboards,

and stomachs that growl so loud they are deafening.

Your heart hears the silent groaning of community pillars

as the weight of all of the problems causes them to buckle,

destroying the bridges that hold everyone  together.

Your heart hears the laughter that should be there,

hidden away in the vaults of sick children.

It hears the prayers and questions no mother or father should ever ask.

Your heart hears all of these things,

and your heart hears the sound of something calling to you.


And your heart has strength your hands don’t.

Hands clear land,

but your heart plants roots,

deep, far reaching,

tapping into their souls that hold everything together.

Your heart speaks with uplifting heart beats.

It whispers, “Believe,”

as steady as the beeps and blips from the medical machines they are attached to.

It whispers, “Believe,” over and over again.

Your heart transforms people into beautiful blossoms.

Your heart squeezes them tight.

tighter and tighter,

squeezing the despair out into the air

until there is only room for love to settle in.

Your heart touches a sick person,

and builds them,

piece by piece,

until they become they cornerstone they were always meant to be.

Until they don’t need you.

Until their heart has become strong enough to build farms and sack gardens,

schools and buildings,

a new life where they control their destiny.

Your heart has the strength to do these things,

and that’s why you lead with care.


As you lead,

your heart sees what follows.

The smiles from people who never dared to dream they would bare that part of their soul again.

Your heart hears what follows.

The sound of children being children, playing outside,

lost in the moment instead of lost to a disease.

Your heart feels what follows.

It feels the power of Mikono mingi ndoto moja.

Many hands. One dream.


You lead with care

and that makes all the difference.