Peter Espeut | From suffering to joy
It must be said that even with the Jamaican government’s reluctance to test widely, we are doing better than many wealthier and more developed countries. I have a friend in England who has been in and out of hospital with serious COVID-19 symptoms over the past few weeks. She has been flat on her back, unable to keep anything down, while being cared for by her devoted sister. The sister shows no symptoms, but her two sons seem to have the virus. None of them has been tested so far. The much-touted British National Health Service is under serious strain.
And the British Prime Minister who earlier had boasted of flouting social distance rules by shaking hands with everyone – including COVID-19 patients – is now in intensive care in a London hospital. We may be a small, slowly developing country, but our political leadership has not been that foolhardy, and for the most part the Andrew Holness administration must be congratulated for the approach it has taken to the crisis so far.
But the bald fact is that because of the ongoing pandemic money is not circulating throughout the economy the way it used to. Thousands of Jamaicans have been laid off from the tourism industry. With hotels closed, those who supplied them with food and other items have no market; thousands of household helpers and gardeners have not been allowed to work; there is less buying and selling going on; with many bars and places of entertainment closed, and with people off the street at night because of the curfew, many are beginning to feel the pinch. No amount of stimulus can fully make up for lost income and sales.
I think we need to wake up and realize that this COVID-19 pandemic is going to make all of us a little poorer over the next few months. For those who have savings, these will be depleted, and many of us will have to sell assets or pawn our valuables just to buy food. The many who have no savings, and who live off their last pay cheque, can be expected to suffer.
Besides slowing down the spread of the COVID-19 virus the nightly curfew should make house-breaking and shop-breaking a little harder (but not impossible), and there are fewer people on the streets to get robbed. But the tightness in the economy may make law-breakers more desperate. We Jamaicans must become more vigilant, and must take measures to protect ourselves from being robbed. It is the wise and sensible thing to do.
But at times like these – even as each of us has less and less – Christians must rise to the challenge given to us by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We must not wait until our brothers and sisters become desperate when they realize they cannot feed their children or themselves. We can look around us and offer assistance to those in need.
As we are forced to become more sedentary, each of us must eat less than when we are more active, to avoid becoming obese. This will make more available for us to give to others.
Today we remember the tremendous suffering that Jesus, the Christ, went through because of our sin. Jesus chose his suffering; and then he called upon us to take up our crosses daily and follow him.
This COVID-19 pandemic gives us an opportunity to share a little in the suffering of Jesus, as we seek to reduce the suffering of others. If we Christians do not make a difference in the world around us, can we really expect pagans and nowhereians to do it?
The great (selfish) temptation is to focus only on ourselves and our needs, but there are always others worse off. Let each of us play our part to lessen the sufferings of others. In doing so, we will be following Jesus, and imitating him, which is our call as Christians.
The Rev. Peter Espeut is Dean of Studies at St. Michael’s Theological College. Email feedback to email@example.com