The Outbreak

“It feels like I just laid down.  I’ve got to start getting in bed earlier,” James said to himself as he thought back to the late night of playing video games with his son.  As a single dad, life wasn’t always easy.  However, he was giving it all he had.  If he could help it, his son Benjamin was going to live as normal a life as possible.  After getting himself ready, he went to get Benjamin out of the bed to get ready for school.

Like every other morning, James flipped on the TV to watch the news while he threw some waffles in the toaster.  They were his son’s favorite.  Benjamin was 8 years old, and he was adjusting well to their new small town.  “Eat up, bud.  You’ve got a big day today.  Don’t forget that your first soccer practice is this afternoon at the Y.”

Like most guys, they didn’t talk much while they ate.  They just listened to the news.  Since James had a slight commute, he always like to hear the traffic report.  However, instead of the traffic this morning, a special news report was on.  “Aww…come on,” said James.  “I just want to hear if there are any wrecks.”

“The federal government has restricted air travel to South America until further notice.  Doctors have yet to determine a vaccine for this unknown virus that has already taken the lives of hundreds of natives in the last two weeks.”

“What are they talking about, Dad?” Benjamin asked, perplexed.

“Who knows, bud.  Probably some new strain of flu.  Don’t worry about it, unless you were planning on flying to South America anytime soon.”

Benjamin laughed as James rubbed him on the head.

“Finish up.  The bus will be here soon.  Remember that Ms. Linda will pick you up after school and bring you home.  I’ll come pick you up and take you to practice.”  James washed off both plates and grabbed Benjamin’s backpack for him as the bus rounded the corner.

“Bye, Dad.  See ya’ this afternoon.”

“You, too.  Love you, son!”

“Love you, too, Dad!” Benjamin yelled back over his shoulder as he ran to the curb.

That always made James smile.  He was glad that Benjamin didn’t mind saying that, even when his friends could hear.  He knew his hard work at keeping a close relationship with is son was paying off.  He grabbed his briefcase and headed to the car.

Traffic wasn’t too bad.  On the drive in, they kept talking about the outbreak on the radio.  James didn’t feel like getting depressed today, so he flipped it over to “90’s on 9”.  When no one was watching, he loved belting out to the songs from his high school days, even if it did get an occasional weird look from the car next to him.

The day started off like normal.  Log on the computer, skim through the emails from the night before, then head to the coffee pot.  Most days James would hang out and chat with his coworkers for a few minutes before really getting started, but he had a huge report due the next day.  Today was going to be a grind.  James headed back to his desk and got right to it.  Benjamin had been talking about soccer practice for weeks, and he didn’t want anything to hold him at the office late.

Fortunately for James, the morning was pretty quiet.  It was one of those rare days where he got to actually sit and work without being interrupted.  He kept the only picture frame on his desk right next to his monitor for motivation.  It was a selfie of him and Benjamin eating ice cream after one of last year’s soccer games.

Around 10:30 that morning, Luke, James’s coworker and one his of friends from college, popped his head in James’s office.

“Dude…what do you think of this virus?” Luke asked.

“What are you talking about?”  James had already forgotten about the news report that morning.

“Have you not seen the news?”

“Oh yeah.  That bird flu thing in South America.  I heard that this morning.  Missed my traffic report because of that.”

“Well apparently it has shown up in Miami.  A passenger got off a plane showing the symptoms, and they’ve just now confirmed it’s the same stuff.”  Luke seemed pretty anxious about it, but he was like that in college, too.  Overreacting to every little thing.  “The CDC is freaking out.  They are talking about shutting down all air travel in the US, too.”

“Well, I’m not flying anywhere, so who cares.  I’ve got to get this report done so I can get out of here today.  Benjamin’s got his first soccer practice, and I can’t miss it.”

“Let me know if you need any help on it,” Luke offered as he headed back to the breakroom to watch the news.

The next couple of hours were going smoothly.  James even worked through lunch, snacking on the previous night’s leftovers.  His only other interruption was when his phone rang around 1:30pm.  The caller ID said it was Eastside Elementary School.  “That’s odd,” James thought.  “That’s Benjamin’s school.”

James answered the phone a little concerned.  “Hello, this is James.”

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hey, bud.  What’s going on? Everything OK?”  James knew his voice sounded a little nervous.

“I’m fine, Dad, but they are cancelling school for the rest of the day.”

“What in the world for?”

“Everyone keeps talking about some virus outbreak.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.  What about your soccer practice?” James asked, now a little irritated.

“They told all of us to go home and stay.  They said all activities would likely be cancelled.”

“Well, let me call Ms. Linda and see if she can pick you up a little early.”

James got all the details worked out.  Problem now was that he still needed to get this report done before he could leave.  It wasn’t 5 minutes later when James saw an email pop up from the company’s president.  It was about the virus.  Since schools had been cancelled and everyone was being asked to go to their homes, all employees were free to leave for the afternoon.

James made the quick decision.  Report or no report, this was starting to make him concerned, and he didn’t want Benjamin to be home without him.  He grabbed his laptop and headed to the door.

On the drive home, he flipped the radio back over to the talk station.  Sure enough, it was all about this virus outbreak.  Turns out, it wasn’t some kind of flu.  They didn’t know what it was.  Several dozen people at the Miami airport were severely sick, and a couple were to the point of death.  The problem is that it has now shown up in Louisiana, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.  Whatever this was, it was coming from everywhere, and it sounded like people were starting to panic.  James pressed the accelerator a little harder.  He was determined to get home to Benjamin.

James ran in the door and yelled for his son.  He was sitting in the kitchen watching the news.  Every channel was talking about this virus.  Without warning, a blaring sound came from the street.  It sounded like an old fashioned bull horn.

“Everyone is ordered to meet at the courthouse in one hour,” the police officer was bellowing from his squad car.  “This is mandatory.  Anyone not in attendance will be charged with disorderly conduct.”

“What does that mean, Dad,” Benjamin asked in a voice that James hadn’t heard in years.

“I don’t know, bud, but don’t worry.  I’m here with you.  Put your shoes on.”

Benjamin squeezed James’s hand tightly as they walked up to the courthouse.  Luckily, in their small town, it was only a couple blocks away.  Besides, a car would have been useless because it seemed like chaos when they got there.  It looked like something out of a movie.  There were tents set up that looked like makeshift greenhouses.

“Dad…” Benjamin said, almost in a terrified voice, as someone in a hazmat suit walked toward them.  James quickly picked him up and held him tightly.

“Sir, please come with me,” the masked figure said in a rushed voice.

“What is this?  What are you talking about?” James quickly asked as he followed the suit.  The suit led him to a room inside one of the tents.  After the room was filled with their neighbors, a gentleman quickly stood on a box and started to speak.

“This virus is spreading faster than anyone has ever seen.  Everyone who has contracted the virus has either died or been at the point of death within hours.  The President has declared a state of emergency as hundreds in the US have died, and tens of thousands around the world have died just today.”

Gasps could be heard around the room as a few even started to cry.

“Fortunately, an antidote has been found.  The problem is that there is not enough of it.  There is a special blood type that only a handful of people in the world seem to have, and the cure is being developed from that.  Leaders all over the world have asked their citizens to have a small blood test in hopes of finding more sources to develop the cure.  Our President has ordered these testing centers to be set up all over the country.  Please, do not panic.  We will have you out of here in no time so you can get back to your homes.  We only need a small drop of blood from each person to test your blood type.”

Benjamin looked at James, tears in his eyes.  James squeezed him tight and wasn’t about to put him down.  He whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry, bud.  I’m right here.  It’s going to be OK.”

The line moved quickly.  In no time, James carried Benjamin up to the table.  James gave them his finger first, hoping to show Benjamin that it didn’t hurt.  Truth is, it stung a little, but he smiled at his son when they did it, hoping to show him it was OK.  Benjamin reluctantly stuck out one hand as he squeezed tighter to James’s neck with the other.  It only lasted a second, but Benjamin started to cry.  James did his best to console him from the pain.

They were ushered out of the tent.  There was a man standing there telling everyone to head on back home and to stay until further notice.  If there was a match someone would be contacting them.  James looked at Benjamin.

“See, bud.  That wasn’t so bad. Let’s go play some video games.”

Benjamin smiled for the first time.  They started to walk away.  They hadn’t walked more than fifty feet when James heard someone scream his name.  They stopped and both immediately looked back toward the tents.  Someone in a suit and tie was running toward them both.  Benjamin squeezed James tight again.

“Sir, please wait!” screamed the man in the suit.

“What?  We already took the test.  I promise,” James said quickly.

“I know,” the man said, obviously excited, as he stopped next to James.  “It was a match!  I can’t believe this.  It was a match!”

“OK,” said James with an odd look on his face.  “Now what?  Can you make an antidote from the blood?”

“Absolutely,” the man said.  “Apparently this is the first reported match in the US.”

“That’s great,” James said.  “Do you need me to come give some blood or something?”

“Actually, you didn’t match.  He did,” the man said, pointing and looking at Benjamin.

James’s heart skipped a beat.  This time, he was the one that squeezed Benjamin.

“Well, I guess he can give some blood.  You up for that, bud?” James asked, looking right at Benjamin.  Benjamin slowly shook his head.  James looked back at the man in the suit.  “OK.  Can you give us a second to grab him is favorite blanket from the house?  It will help to keep him calm.”

“Unfortunately, sir, there isn’t time for that.  It is urgent that you come with me right now.  We need to start harvesting the blood so the cure can be made.”

Shocked at the man’s directness, James quickly cupped his hands over Benjamin’s ears.

“Slow down for a second.  This is my son you are talking about,” James whispered back.

“Sir, I understand how this may be a shock to you, but you must understand the urgency.  The world appears to be within days of extension.  This outbreak is out of control, and your son may be our only chance of survival.  There are people all over the world who are relying on his blood right now.”

“OK…fine,” James whispered back.  “How much blood do you need?  A couple vials?”

“I’m so sorry, sir.  We’re going to need all of it.”

 

This is obviously a decision that would crush any parent.  Do you save your child, or do you allow your child to save all of humanity?  As farfetched as this story may sound, it is based on a true story.  One that happened nearly 2,000 years ago.  The world became overrun with a deadly outbreak that didn’t steal the physical life, but the eternal life, of all who came in contact with it.  What was this outbreak?  Sin.  And a Father had to make the decision to allow His Son’s blood to be shed so that all of humanity might be saved from this deadly outbreak.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

 

(This is a retelling of a story I heard many years ago, though the author is unknown.)

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