This morning I read of a mysteriously bright star, the brightest star ever recorded. It’s located twelve million light years from earth and pumps out as much energy as 10 million suns. Imagining this bright star, I was reminded of the African Bushmen’s belief that when you die you become a star.
Then, I read another news clip, this one about Ebola. For weeks I have been upset, bothered, chafed by the many stories in the news daily about the flourishing Ebola virus in West Africa. I am duly horrified by the lack of gloves in the hospitals of Sierra Leone, deeply saddened by the way fear has broken down cultural systems of community support and highly irritated by the disproportionate fear of contagion here in the USA. As my friend David Patient quips, here you are less likely to die of Ebola than you are to die choking on a wheat thin or at the hands of a duck with a gun.
Naturally, this disease brings back memories of watching the AIDS epidemic tear through South Africa. I have seen the painful shunning and shaming infectious disease can breed, seen the way fear isolates and creates dark secrets but, I have seen the other side of the picture as well. I’ve watched women adopt sick babies, feed dying neighbors and give scarce food to orphaned children. I have watched courage and compassion blossom in the face of a killer epidemic.
Today’s news clip told of a newborn infant, the premature offspring of an Ebola victim who lay isolated in a small box until the happy moment when her test results came back negative. Happily, the nurses rushed to pick up this sad baby. However, the test for newborns is primitive and in this case, it was wrong. Twelve of these kind nurses were infected and have died. This news dissolved any remaining barriers to the pain and my heart broke wide with grief for all the sick people and caregivers who are fighting Ebola in the trenches of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Then, I decided to adopt the ideas of the Bushmen. I chose to believe that the oh- so-bright star must be a composite being, a composite of all those, like the caregivers in West Africa, who pick up orphaned infants, feed the sick and care for the dying. It seems the only worthy response to these wretchedly unfair situations is to honor those who rise to meet them with both great courage and deep compassion.
This helped my poor cracked heart.
May I remember each time I look up at a star drenched sky to honor the thousands upon thousands of people who have preformed one of the small acts of courageous compassion which occur each day. This is where I will rest my besieged sense of hope for this oh so troubled world of ours.