Joanna Adams: Love and Fear


The skies over Atlanta have been especially noisy in recent days as news helicopters hovered over two ambulances making their way from Dobbins Air Reserves to Emory University Hospital.

Members of the media wait outside of Emory Hospital. Photo courtesy of

Members of the media wait outside of Emory Hospital for latest news on Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol. Photo courtesy of

On board were two patients from Liberia - one, a physician and the other, a missionary - each being taken to a special isolation ward at the hospital where they are now being given experimental drug therapy to fight the Ebola virus.  According to the World Health Organization, this deadly disease has already taken nearly 1,000 lives in West Africa.

Despite constant reassurances from Emory doctors and public health spokespersons that the chances of the virus spreading are nil because of the rigorous procedures in place, there has nevertheless been an outbreak of fear that the infection will not be contained and could potentially contaminate the American population.

Fear-mongering is certainly nothing new, and I am glad that Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are being well and wisely cared for by Emory professionals who are trained in infectious disease treatment and control.

Maybe I am crazy, but I hope that these two good people, presently patients at Emory, whose life work has been helping their fellow men and women in a country 5,000 miles away, will actually start an epidemic in America.

I pray that the spirit of compassion that has motivated them all their adult lives will become contagious among us.

Neighborly love seems to be in short supply on our side of the Atlantic.  I am not talking about surface, sentimental, take it-or-leave-it love. I am talking about love that dares to take risks, love that looks and feels like courage and sacrifice.

Even during their treatment, Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol have demonstrated go-all-the-way love. Up to now, the experimental drugs with which they are being treated have been untested. If the treatment proves to be effective, the hope is that future lives will be saved.

Jesus said, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."  These two very sick, space-suited-up patients in the state-of- the-art isolation ward remind us it still can be done.

Some years ago, my mother underwent open heart surgery at Emory University Hospital. It was a success, adding years to her life.

I am hopeful that the courageous actions of Emory doctors, nurses and other medical professionals will open up the hearts of people around the world so that love may flow more freely, person to person, neighbor to neighbor, institution to institution, nation to nation.  We simply have to care for one another and not in an anemic way.

The great Jewish thinker and moral leader Elie Wiesel said, "The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness; it is indifference. The opposite of peace is not war, it is indifference."

The news choppers are no longer circling overhead in Atlanta, but the cameras are still rolling as the Ebola story unfolds.  I hope the world is going, forth far and wide, so that indifference to suffering has no supporters in Atlanta, Georgia. Here, people care. Here, hearts are open.

From the Higher Ground blog


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