Among the lyrics nay-sayers are objecting to in the new Do they know it’s Christmas song just released by Bob Geldof & Co is “Where a kiss of love can kill you…”
It’s a heart-breaking reality for the people of West Africa, whose love and compassion is denied them by the highly contagious infect-on-contact nature of the virus.
The dignity of dying
It’s been much reported that the custom of touching and kissing the dying and the dead is a major cause of spreading this dreadful affliction.
How dare we be so heartless and uncaring!
We would all be better people for demonstrating such humanity. To show love to the dying is one of the greatest gifts of all. Unfortunately, with Ebola around, it will kill you.
Except maybe we’re not that uncaring – just misplaced in our thinking and unobservant of the ways of others. And maybe a little insensitive.
Here to help
This week, more volunteers flew into Sierra Leone – thirty NHS professionals, advance guard of over 1,000 highly motivated and committed young people.
As trained medics, it will be ingrained in them that patients must be isolated and contact restricted to professionals wearing proper protection. Not wrong, but itself adding to the crisis.
To locals they are the “spacemen” who take loved ones away, denying them the care and support of their family when they need it most. To avoid such heartbreak, they hide sick family members from them, stealing into the jungle to even more remote havens.
But unfortunately not they’re havens at all. How ever far they run, Ebola will kill them for their love. Giving and loving is not on the agenda.
Where’s the love?
That makes it a bleak Christmas for everyone. As a celebration of love and compassion it belongs to the world – for Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus every bit as much as Christians. Love and compassion are qualities we all seek to show in our actions, 365 days a year.
In fitting tribute, in Germany, Japan and several other places round the world there are shops devoted to Christmas all year round. Such glitz and razzmatazz might overpower the underlying love, but the motive is still there. We care, we need to show it, Happy Christmas.
Which brings us back to Sierra Leone. If we need to show compassion anywhere, it’s here.
Yes, it’s amazing what’s happening. Professionals from around the world – particularly Britain – giving of themselves and risking their lives to be there. Money and resources can buy a lot of compassion.
But where is the love the locals need to show their own?
Well-meaning but insensitive
With our Western ways and perceptions, we steal it away from them just as surely as Ebola does. They can’t touch, feel, kiss, or be together. We rip them apart without knowing we are doing so. No wonder they flee to the jungle.
How would we feel if we were denied access to our own? Our own children, soul mate or parents taken away from us – as if we have committed a crime?
This is the REAL Ebola crisis, isn’t it?
How to let people show love.
And how to be genuine about it.
So a bunch of pop stars get together to make a fund-raising song – they waive their fee but generate more publicity for themselves than they might otherwise have got on their own.
So the concerned among us make donations – dumping the guilt bucket and wallowing in feelgood.
So the gung-ho professionals arrive in West Africa – troops, medicos, nurses, gofers – boots on the ground, determined to stomp out this terrible virus once and for all.
But where’s the Christmas?
Where do the people of Sierra Leone get to show their love for the family who are suffering and dying? How do they show their love and respect for the dead?
Can we solve it with pastors, imams, rabbis and priests?
The hurt is in the heart
Have we any idea how hard it is to ask those people to let go? To get them to accept that it’s out of their hands, those lives are gone – unless by some lucky chance the medical professionals can bring them back again?
All we can do is think of them and try in every way we can. Recognise they all face the long good-bye and try to put ourselves in their position.
Because unlike them, we’re not good with dead bodies. They scare us, even when they’re our own family. A throwback maybe to 350 years ago, when we ourselves were faced with The Plague and in our ignorance we thought the slightest touch could do for us.
Be kind to these people, they’re humans just like us. Take them to your heart and love them in your own way. If the world shows love, maybe losing a loved one may not be so heart-breaking.
Love is the greatest gift of all and Ebola can’t have it.