In this fifth and concluding article of the series centered on the question of whether Ebola is a curse or a natural or man-made virus a particular attention is paid to the possible lessons we all as individuals, families, communities, religious institutions and nations can learn from the Ebola epidemic. What lessons can we learn from the Ebola disaster to make us better persons and a better nation? In what ways is the Ebola outbreak and the serious challenge it is posing to our existence an opportunity to change our attitudes and whole way of life for the better? Let us explore a bit below. The fourth article on human responsibility in dealing with the Ebola menace observed the following main points:
Some believers wrongly think that human responsibility and divine support are incompatible. No, they are mistaken. The premise of this fourth article is that divine help and human efforts go hand in hand. We should not choose between the two. We make judicious use of both. We can always pray hard and equally work hard.
The biggest challenge and gap in this fight against Ebola is to break the chain of transmission. We seem to be losing the fight as the rate of infection is increasing rapidly. To break the chain in transmission requires the involvement of everyone—especially individuals and communities. The outsiders can help with the building of more Ebola treatment centers, movement of equipment and medicines, lots of experts and preventive materials but the behavior change that is required has to be taught and effected by communities.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once noted that to depend on our works and our works alone without any reference to God is atheism. Conversely, to sit and do nothing and expect God to do everything for us is not faith but presumption. Christianity is both trust in God and hard work. St. Augustine of Hippo put it like this: “Without God we cannot. Without us God will not”. In other words apart from God we can nothing. But though God can do without us, yet he has chosen to work with and through us mortals. What lessons then can we learn from the Ebola crisis to make us better?
Joshua David Stone and Gloria Excelsias aver that every crisis is an opportunity: “Any crisis is an opportunity to change direction in your life”. They reveal that the word crisis is of Greek origin and it means “a turning point in a disease.” Their conclusion is: “So a crisis is truly an opportunity for a turning point in our lives”. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks of turning our liabilities into assets. He uses the perennial example of Helen Keller who lived in the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Made blind and deaf by a debilitating disease at the age of nine, she rose above the challenges in those days of being blind and deaf to acquiring a university degree and becoming an author, a lecturer, and an activist for the disabled. She could have mourned and blamed other people for her condition. No, rather she worked extra hard and excelled above many normal persons! Some experts in how to turn problems into opportunities speak about “turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones” in going higher rather than lower.
The question for those who are now experiencing the havoc of this deadly disease is “Will Ebola leave us the same unpatriotic, self-centered, polarized, and envious people or will it leave us a better united people”?
I suggest a few cardinal lessons. Ebola is forcing us as nations to revisit our health systems and pay more attention to them by putting more money in them and managing them better for our own survival and means of growth and development. Ebola is teaching us about how to better care for our bodies and environments. Many of us were taught early on in life to wash our hands as often as possible and to keep our surroundings clean as a means of preventing a lot of diseases but we have been careless about putting these basic lessons into practice. Ebola is calling us back to those basics.
Above all, Ebola is challenging us to dare to do things differently to what we are used to. If we who are naturally a touching (countless handshakes) and hugging people can learn to restrain from a natural habit then we can certainly change our old bad attitudes and try more challenging ways of thinking and doing things differently with the potential of making us better. Let Ebola help us change our attitudes and ways for the better.