The Covid-19 virus is currently growing exponentially in our country. Although officially the numbers appear to be low, our current resources cannot accurately reflect the true numbers. As people in a majority of countries all over the world frantically find ways to combat the virus, government leaders have adopted various means to contain, if not mitigate it. Practically racing against time, scientists around the world are burdened with the task of finding a medical solution before the virus contaminates more people. I was told that Chinese scientists have bumped into an old anti-malaria drug that has vastly improved the health conditions of patients afflicted with the Covid-19.
In the Philippines, our leaders decided to restrict movement of people as part of a mitigating strategy. Admittedly, this tragic phenomenon will eventually kill a number of Filipinos in the process. We all want this number to be as low as possible. As an effect of this mitigation strategy, business owners are challenged to stay open in business vis-à-vis protecting themselves and their employees amid government measures to mitigate the virus, such as community quarantine. I am certain that police and military personnel manning the checkpoints will face the challenge of dealing with angry citizens trying to travel in and out of places subject to quarantine procedures and curfew hours. Health professionals are working double time, considering that the country was recently placed in a State of Public Health Emergency. Church and religious leaders are theoretically on “red alert” status as well, knowing that faith in the Lord is needed more than ever by their respective parishioners.
More tragic events, such as hoarding and panic buying will unfold soon, as well as inspiring stories of grace. The bigger tragedy than the alarming death toll all over the world may happen when and if humanity fails to follow the greatest commandments. In the Bible, Mark 12:30-31 tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are no commandments greater than these. Loving your neighbor as yourself is so important that the Bible repeats it eight times and makes it a command. Greater than any declaration made by any world leader, including our own President Duterte, such command to love your neighbor as yourself is given in tandem with loving God.
Who, then, is our neighbor? In the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, the neighbor is the one with compassion. Our hearts, when moved by compassion, cannot sit idly by while someone suffers a need. Loving your neighbor as yourself is having that heartfelt urge to help others as best as you can. In the Bible, Philippians 2:3-4 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Loving our neighbor as ourselves is to look out for other people’s well-being, above our own. Easier said than done, but His grace plants the seed of His love in our hearts. His grace allows us to make allowances for other people’s shortcomings.
Soon after the Presidential speech about the lockdown or quarantine, criticism automatically followed. Some say that reading a resolution and translating it, line by line, in Filipino with some injection of ill-advised humorous statements is uninspiring. Some say that the actions recommended by the Task Force were not well thought out as they induced more questions than answers. Instead of managing the eventual chaos, the recommended actions created more confusion. I do not intend to justify recent government decisions, but everyone ought to be reminded that this pandemic is a one-off event that no one anticipated nor hardly prepared for. There is no one person who will know everything, unless such person experienced to manage the SARS virus in 2003, the similar pandemic that hit Singapore, Japan and Taiwan. This lethal pandemic will show us that we Filipinos, as a people, are imperfect beings who will likely do dumb things at the onset.
In the coming days of checkpoints, quarantine, border inspection, loving our neighbor includes giving our government people the benefit of the doubt. Let’s speak kindly and patiently to these health professionals and law enforcers, our neighbors. God’s love within us teaches us to show kindness and share goodness to each one of them. Knowing that words either build up or tear down, I beseech our leaders, as well as their critics, to be more intentional with their words by magnifying the good. We can always find something good and kind to say to each other when such statements are premised on love for one another. Share information that are only true, to help and inspire rather than to destroy and frustrate.
Aside from words, let our actions be anchored on love for our neighbor above self. In the coming days, if we conduct our affairs as if we are Covid-19 positive already, then we will emerge victorious as a community. Let’s follow the government measures on social distancing; the best and simplest mitigating measure thus far, not just for us but also, more important for our neighbors. The biggest tragedy of them all can happen when our love for others dissipates, in direct violation of the greatest commandments. Each and every Filipino has to be part of the solution to defeat this wicked Covid-19, out of love for others.
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