Her language was filthy, her face contorted in rage. Momentarily trapped in an elevator with her, my wife and I concentrated on not provoking her further. He’s infected everybody and he knew just what he was doing! , she screamed.
The “he” was Thomas Duncan, who had just died of Ebola in the hospital across the street from the doctor’s office to which all three of us were heading. When the elevator door opened, she shoved both my wife and me to the side, stormed toward our doctor’s reception area, and treated everyone seated in it to yet another furious fulmination against terrorists pretending to be Liberians.
When we came through the door, she turned her head back toward me, and then I saw it. Her mouth and her face were spewing outrage and blame. But her eyes were fixed in terror. I don’t think I’ll ever forget looking into them.
No one who knows what the Ebola virus can do can or even should be completely unafraid of it. However, being honest with ourselves about just how scared we are goes a long way toward preventing our fears from taking possession of us. It can cure us of the delusion that casting blame and staying angry is the way to keep terror at bay.
As our city continues to calm down at least a little from what has gripped us for the past three weeks, my own thoughts keep returning to what truly spiritual people have told us for millennia about dealing with fear. Its cure is a deepening compassion for people in need, along with the active reaching out to alleviate it. In a word, the cure for fear is love.
Serving the needs of others leaves little room in the soul for fear. From one perspective, therefore, it’s a very reckless endeavor. But from another, it’s a transforming one. I’m still working hard on opening myself more to both.
Here in Dallas there are all kinds of signs that love has been at work in the midst of our Ebola scare. But there are also signs that love has yet to “take” in the hearts of some, especially landlords too fearful to rent to Mr. Duncan’s now possession-less family members.
Sometimes, it’s easier to nurture fear than love. And therein lies the real Ebola crisis that faces us.