How are you doing? I’ve asked this question many times this summer during my CPE experience at St Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia. I’ve sat at the bedside of patients whose families are overcome with grief after the death of their loved one. I’ve held the hand of a young woman whose unborn child has died, denying her hope for her daughter and her dreams of motherhood. I’ve stood alongside a woman dying all alone until she took her last breath on this Earth. I’ve seen many faces of grief.
But grieving is not just about these personal events. I think we’re grieving as a nation and as a global community – and for good reason. We have been bombarded with tragedy all summer long: James Foley, Ebola, Gaza and Israel, Iraq, Syria, Michael Brown, Ferguson, Detroit….Where does it stop? I know that I am beginning to shut off the news for a bit; there’s just so much a person can hear. I get a terrible queasiness and knotting in my stomach. Maybe NPR 24/7 has gotten to be too much. Do not fear; I am not retreating into ostrich-mode. I just need a short break, a glimpse of hope, a few moments of beauty. So, then I thought of you and that brings me to my question: How are YOU doing?
In the face of all this misery and loss, how do we manage to hold onto a faith in our Loving God? I think the only way we can is through our faith, our prayer and the support of one another. Indulge me for a few minutes please while I tell a favorite anecdote. There was a terrible thunderstorm going on outside and the little boy was frightened in his bed by all the loud thunder and bright lightning, so he ran to his parents’ bed. His dad was tired so told the little boy: “Now, go back to your bed, son. The storm won’t hurt you. Just pray and ask God to keep you safe.” So, the little boy obediently went back to bed. Pretty soon there was another big crash of thunder and the boy ran trembling back to his parents. “Didn’t I tell you to ask God to help you? Go on back to bed,” the dad gently encouraged. And the boy did as he was told again. It wasn’t long before there was the loudest thunder crash of all and the boy leapt from his bed and ran to his parents’ side again. “Now, son,” the dad began, “The storm can’t hurt you. Just ask God for help.” To which the little boy finally spoke up: “I know, Dad; I just need a little skin.”
We all need some “skin” from time to time. And we need to be that “skin” for one another during times like these.
So, there you have my introduction for this morning’s blog. I’d like to stop right there but there are things to discuss. I’ll begin today’s topic with some good news – Dr Kent Brantly, the American doctor who had contracted Ebola while serving in West Africa, will be released from the hospital in Atlanta, GA, on Thursday after lab results showed that there’s no trace of the virus in his body. What great news!! The other health worker still at Emory University Hospital, Nancy Writebol, is regaining her strength but is not ready for discharge yet.
While we have this good news, the tragedy continues in Liberia and Sierra Leone. On Wednesday afternoon, we learned that the entire area of West Point, one of Liberia’s poorest slums, was quarantined resulting in clashes with police as residents tried to flee the area. I can only imagine the fear in these people as they perceive this quarantine as a death sentence for them. CNN posted an interesting essay on this situation and the perspective of the Liberian people by Cerue Konah Garlo, senior program officer at the International Research & Exchanges Board, based in Liberia: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/20/opinion/garlo-ebola-liberia/index.html?iid=article_sidebar
The Episcopal News Service also posted an article telling of the work of two church groups who are responding to the crisis – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/08/14/church-groups-mobilize-to-address-west-africa-ebola-outbreak/ Episcopal Relief & Development is working with its partners in both Liberia and Sierra Leone supporting awareness-raising efforts and providing personal protection equipment and disinfectants to under-resourced hospitals and clinics in the affected areas, according to an Aug. 6 press release – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/08/06/responding-to-ebola-crisis-in-sierra-leone-and-liberia/ Please read these articles to get you thinking about how you might be “God with skin” for our brothers and sisters – both those who are suffering from Ebola and those who are working with them to bring healing and hope.
Let us pray:
O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, we come before you with heavy hearts for the pain and suffering we see all around us. We ask for your healing hand to touch those suffering from Ebola and those attending to their needs, Lord. Give us open and generous hearts to see where we can be your hands and feet and voice – your “skin” – for our brothers and sisters and then grant us the conviction to step out to do that which you call us to do. All this, we ask in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council