I'd been in India maybe 20 minutes, in a cab from the airport, when I saw him: a small man, sitting by the road, his feet stretched out toward traffic. Something was wrong with the shape of his face—as if one eye and the cheek below had been scooped away. Then my gaze was drawn to his foot. Swollen, mottled pink, surrounded by a cloud of flies. It it didn't look like a foot, more like an underinflated football, oozing, with toenails poking out of it like broken blades.
In the days that followed, I saw a lot of squalor and suffering. I even saw a couple of corpses. But that man with leprosy stayed in my mind. How wrong can a human life go? How far into suffering and brokenness can someone sink?
Years later, I got the chance to work with an organization that fights leprosy. The disease is completely curable with an inexpensive course of antibiotics. Caught early enough, it will leave no mark, no wound, no stigma. Sign me up, I thought. As causes go, you can hardly beat curing people of leprosy.
But there was a problem: The leaders of the organization at the time were dedicated to removing the word leprosy from the world's vocabulary. ...