COMING SOON! ...a time for renewal and hope

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COMING SOON! ...a time for renewal and hope

lANCe NEITA

Sunday, March 22, 2020

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Three weeks from today we will be celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday, what we commonly call the Easter weekend. Sadly, it won't be the same. The churches will be near empty this year, the beaches lonely, family gatherings sombre, the dance halls quiet.

The physical manifestations of a traditional Easter weekend in Jamaica will be absent as far as the eye can see. The novel coronavirus 2019 epidemic appears likely to bottle up Easter 2020, as plans for travelling overseas, travelling to the north coast, travelling to the country for family reunions, are all put on hold.

It's a sombre shadow cast by this rampaging virus which is as unwelcome as it was unexpected. It has caused a shutdown around the entire globe, forcing mankind to find a common base as never before through our fears, our anguish, our brotherhood, the reordering of our economic and social agendas, and in our relentless search for solutions.

Yet, the timing of this great religious festival and holiday could never be better. It comes at a time when universal spirits are low, felled by this ongoing pandemic outbreak. But, look up, as Easter proclaims a time of renewal, a time of recovery and hope, and a time to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Consider this: Two thousand years ago, the world was unwittingly experiencing its darkest hour when the Son of God was killed on the Cross. The Bible tells us how on that first Good Friday, the earth shook, tombs broke open, soldiers trembled, and darkness covered the land.

The men who had openly followed their teacher up to his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem had now stepped back in terror; their master publicly scorned and crucified, their hopes now thrown to the wind. They retreated to a sad and secret place.

There was mourning in Jerusalem, with the promise of a brave new world destroyed, and possible extermination facing the disciples at the hands of the soldiers who would surely be hunting them down.

Then, on the first day of the week, the pages of history are dramatically rewritten as the man buried in a borrowed grave rises from the dead, the lights are turned on, and an Easter morning sparkles in all its glory as the forward march begins for the greatest religion the world will ever know.

That's Easter to look forward to in April, where “no grave can hold my body down”, the Easter lilies will be blooming, kites will be flying, and the magnificent Hallelujah Chorus will last forever.

Coronavirus will take its toll, but we dare not allow the human spirit enriched by the eternal promise of Easter to be overcome by the gloom and doom of this pandemic spread.

Here is another story which we were told in elementary school:

It is June 18, 1815, and the famous Battle of Waterloo is taking place on a Belgian field between the French, led by the great Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the allied forces of the British, the Dutch, and Germany, under the command of the Duke of Wellington.

Back home in England the people are waiting anxiously for news from the front. There is no radio, no television, no telegram service from the continent, but they are relying on a series of signals to find out how the battle is going.

Late in the day a signal is flashed from the tower of the Winchester Cathedral. It reads: “W-e-l-l-i-n-g-t-o-n -- d-e-f-e-a-t-e-d.” The news of defeat spreads quickly, and the nation groans. The entire country is overtaken by doom and gloom when they hear they have lost the war. But suddenly a fog cloud that had covered the tower lifts and the rest of the message is revealed: “W-e-l-l-i-n-g-t-o-n -- d-e-f-e-a-t-e-d -- t-h-e -- e-n-e-m-y.”

The message had four words, not two. And there is joy and celebration across the country as defeat is turned into victory.

Same thing happened in Jerusalem. The disciples got the first message wrong, “J-e-s-u-s –- D-e-f-e-a-t-e-d,” but on the third day the fog lifted and they were given the complete message, “J-e-s-u-s – D-e-f-e-a-t-e-d – D-e-a-t-h.”

So, in the midst of our present woes and very real pain, let's look forward to an Easter revival of our sagging spirits. Lift up your hearts. I guarantee that the Easter lilies will be more beautiful this year. Easter cannot be the same without these beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers. Look out for them.

And are you cracking an egg this Holy Thursday night? One of our long-time Easter traditions in Jamaica is that if you place the egg white in water tonight, by tomorrow, Good Friday, it will form a shape that can predict your future. That explains the usual reported shortage of eggs on Easter weekends. It's not from the baking, it must be the Caymanas punters or the lotto buyers breaking dozens of eggs to find out which horse to buy, or which number to call.

By the way, there is bound to be a lot of 'how comes' in Jamaica at this time — there always is. But are you a little bit surprised by how the horse racing people got through to hold their races at Caymanas Park, even without spectators? The bar people are protesting, but from the pictures I saw of open windows and back doors ajar, methinks some of them protest too much.

Enter the Jamaican bun and cheese — one tradition that, thankfully, will not go away. In fact, I was a little bit surprised to see Easter bun and cheese making its way on to the supermarket shelves as early as last week. This is the time of the year when we satiate ourselves with those gigantic Easter buns. The custom may have come down to us from the hot cross buns of the British. In my childhood, the buns baked at home were actually draped with crispy crosses that were themselves a tasty mouthful and added character to the taste.

Governments of today and yesterday have always been glad to welcome the Easter break, which usually coincides with the national budget debates. The nation, weighted down by bun and cheese, will be well sedated, and many of us will be joining our parliamentarians as they catch a little snooze on the parliamentary benches during some of those long-winded speeches.

But, jesting aside, this will not be your regular Budget Debate, and the opening presentations have already underlined that. Coronavirus takes centre stage this year and, as our leaders and common sense have already told us, one certainty is that this fight is not up to the doctors and medical people alone. Every Jamaican has to take it seriously and accept our responsibility to do our part to control the spread.

At first we weren't sure how the ordinary man could play a meaningful role. After all, this was an illness, and we are not doctors nor nurses. But the advisories and instructions from the Ministry of Health and Wellness have made our roles very clear.

I am not a doctor. I can't heal. My role is to help to control and prevent the spread of the disease. That I can do. Wash hands, cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoid close contact, and avoid crowded spaces. Make these actions habits.

I have found that these simple steps require a great deal of discipline. My normal instinct is to share an embrace or to shake hands. Now I learn all over again a different form of greeting like the heel and toe or the elbow touch. Sounds simple, sometimes even amusing, but it can mean the difference between life and death.

Another favourite story from the elementary school days was that of the signal sent by Admiral Lord Nelson to the British Navy going into battle against France — poor old France again — as the Battle of Trafalgar was about to commence on October 21, 1805. “England expects every man to do his duty,” was the wording of the signal. It buoyed up the spirits to give England a decisive victory, and the phrase became embedded in the English psyche.

Minister Christopher Tufton could well paraphrase it when he summons the entire Jamaica to work together in the fight against the virus: “Jamaica expects every man/woman to do his/her duty.”

Lance Neita is a public relations consultant and author. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or to lanceneita@hotmail.com.


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