I’d like to dedicate this thread to Joseph deVeuster (Father Damien; picture) of Kalawao, Molokai, in Hawaii, who befriended sufferers of leprosy in a remote Pacific colony. Here the leprosy victims, arriving by ship, were sometimes told to jump overboard and swim for their lives, so frightened were the sailors of this island of contagion. But when they arrived they found a friend who was both doctor and priest to them, whose self-imposed duty was to build their homes, their churches ”“ and their coffins. Without any distinction of race or religion, he gave a voice to the voiceless, building a unique community where the joy of being together gave people new reasons for living. It is said that after spilling hot water painlessly on his foot, he diagnosed his own leprosy. After that, his sermons beginning “We lepers”¦” had added veracity. He gave everything to leprosy, and leprosy took all it could from him, including, on May 15 1889, his life. We may look upon that water flowing over his foot not so much as a death sentence, but as one of those initiation ceremonies devised by ancient shamans who realized that it was by these close encounters with death that we augment our spirituality, and so are able to heal. Joseph deVeuster also invalidates all our definitions of health, and more importantly, he demonstrates that optimism works and is more communicable than leprosy, proving that there is nothing that cannot be transcended.