Erasing the Ebola in Our Hearts
Some of us get upset when the rain clouds come and block out DirectTV. Once that happened on a Sunday and I missed the Jets game. To this day my wife wonders if she’s ever seen me more upset. Embarrassing, I know. Rain clouds. Some are thicker and more ominous than others. Recently a friend from Sierra Leone wondered when we would get back to his home country and continue our work with the poorest of the poor. I told him Ebola was causing us to hesitate, and that perhaps we should begin elsewhere, at least until it was safe, back there, where he was, under the Ebola clouds.
“You know John,” he told me, “Sunny skies are the worst times to sew your precious seeds. You must plant when the sky is dark, then your seeds will be watered by the rain and grow. Come back and plant before it is too late.”
Wait. Was my friend calling me a pansy? Was he calling me out for being selfish, more concerned about my health than the well being of his people in West Africa? Was he questioning my courage?
And the truth is I did care more about my security and the security of “the foundation.” The truth is most of my friends here, in America, agreed that we should stay put. “He doesn’t understand the situation,” they said.
But I’m not sure they were right. Not at all. You see, I think my West African friend is absolutely right in the truest, highest, heavenly way possible. He is setting a high bar, one way up there where even Kaitlin Jenner in his Olympic “he” days couldn’t reach. And in that way I failed to do what was right; I failed to plant when the skies were most ominous.
And that’s just the truth. And the truth must be told.
But there is something weird about the truth. It must be spoken of clearly but it must never be mastered. We are never fully truthful, fully honorable, fully good. We are weak. We fail as a rule. The most profoundly beautiful, good and truthful things in life are for us to admire, worship, and revere, but never to master. We are not gods in this sense. We must learn to live in our weakness, we must be humble and bend our necks! After all, every funeral, and all of us will attend at least one, is a recognition of our utter inability to master this thing called life.
Ebola. It is scary. But worse than Ebola is the notion that we will make it all go away; that “I will fix it" and overcome it and become the slayer of all the evil Ebola'ish" things in the world. Read this interesting NYT article, The Burial Boys, and see how often westerners have the “obvious and scientific” fix that then becomes the seed for another sad and evil weed.
No. Our work must have as it’s goal shared human relationship as medicine for the inescapable suffering of the world. Sure, we must project a plan and a goal and sell it as the product of our mission, but all of that is secondary to hunkering down and doing our pathetic best to stay dry in the pouring rain, and to do it together.