AIDS and the Value of Human Life

24 January 2008 § Leave a comment

One of the main fascinations of my thought life recently has been HIV/AIDS. We are working at an orphanage specifically for children with the virus. I was asking one of the nannies what it was like to work with AIDS children, and she said that it was just like caring for normal kids, except they have to be extra careful when they get scrapes and cuts. Many of the children know multiple languages, and they all speak Thai and English, mainly because they have Thai and Western caretakers. Sometimes i hear them at their lessons, and see them run and play and get into mischief. One little boy is always sporting a Superman costume, and he runs around with his fist out in front of him, and he steps out from behind things with his hands on his hips. His name is Joe. I don’t know the rest of his story, but i know that he has made a lasting impression on my memory and my heart.

It reminds me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (Don’t read this paragraph if you want to read the book because i’m ruining the surprise in it.) It’s a futuristic novel that is actually very close to home. It’s about children who grow up in a wonderful boarding school called Haversham, where they get education, physical excercise, good food, and discipline. They are forced to do artistic and creative things, and then when they get older they have to donate their organs. It turns out that they are each clones of another living person somewhere, and they were only created for the use of their body parts. The founder of Haversham was just one worker who had a heart for humanity, and she started the school because other clones all over the country were being treated like livestock. The art was to somehow show those in the beaurocracy that these children really did have souls, and were real people; that they really were worth all the thousands of extra pounds (it was set in England) to give them a sort of life worth living.

Home of the Open Heart is like that, in a way. It really would be a wonderful place to spend one’s childhood, even if it is cut short. There is education, clean housing, fun playgrounds, loving care. Most of society rejects anyone with HIV/AIDS, mostly because they are ignorant of the fact that it’s not contagious, just infectious. It’s a scary thing to have your immune system gone, and so people shy away from it. The result is a heinous amount of hurting humanity, who are most likely going to have an early death anyway. HOH sees the value of human life. No one should live in destitution as a result of oppression by other human beings–that’s just horrendous. I see destitution in conjunction with direct environmental factors as something that isn’t being helped, though plenty of people in the world could–it’s sickening and wrong. But to have a direct physical hand in ruining someone’s life is even worse, if possible.

So, even though their earthly lives are doomed from the very moment of their conception to be foreshortened and painful, they shouldn’t be doomed to be rejected. We’re all in this together–every man physically dies. We might as well make it as eternally worthwhile as possible while we’re here. The Creator never intended for humans to shun one another, but to build one another up, and care for one another. Why do you think a mother’s instinct is to nourish and care for her baby? Because that’s how it’s supposed to be: love.

There are so many hurting and impoverished people in the world. How do we care for them all? How can one person make a difference to billions? I think the answer is discipleship. Sort of like the saying about teaching a man to fish. If you teach one man to fish, then he can teach his whole community how to fish, and they can go on to teach the neighboring community, and pretty soon the whole coastline never goes hungry. If we begin with teaching people how to live kindly and generously and lovingly, as it was supposed to be, then that, too, can be contagiously spread throughout communities and the world. All it would take is humility instead of pride, and teachability and cooperating instead of foolhardiness and independence, which is something that must be taught as well. Jesus taught it. My parents taught it to me, and i’m still working on it.

It’s a daunting task, saving the world. And we can’t do it. But that’s why our Creator also provides grace.

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