Monday, August 13, 2007

Dr. Quinn and Leprosy

Several months ago someone donated the first season of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman to our library. Only Tamera could have been excited about this. (All six seasons check out daily at the library now). . Years ago, I watched and loved every peril that Sully and Dr. Mike found themselves in. So I brought the first season home.

I knew my daughters would not be too happy about having to endure watching Jane Seymour act like a Bostonian doctor turned Coloradan medicine woman. We put the first DVD in and sat down to watch. My oldest daughter asked me if Sully was as hot as we remembered. I laughed out loud when he showed up on screen—larger than life. Fake tan and all. Didn't matter. We all decided he was better than we remembered.

We have been hooked ever since. We are now on the fifth season. We sit and watch an episode instead of TV. We talk to the characters, fuss at them, get mad at them, and adore them, and yes, we have cried with them.

My younger girls have learned what it means to have a conflicted character in the show. We all don't know quite what to do with Hank, the saloon owner. One show we get so angry at him we would like to shear off his long, golden locks and gut-punch him. And the next we want to kiss him.

There are other characters that we just simply love: Brian Cooper (Dr. Mike's adopted son), and Robert E., the town blacksmith. Matthew Cooper (who, according to my daughters can rival Sully for the most “hot” award). Cloud Dancing (Cheyenne medicine man). And Sully. Of course Sully. And we love Dr. Mike—most of the time.

Quite often we are mad at Dr. Quinn. We get frustrated with her. She is a tad pretentious, a bit of a know-it-all, and often quite self-righteous. We get the most upset when she is self-righteous.

Recently we watched an episode about a beautiful painter coming to Colorado Springs. She arrived on the train (new to the town). She steps off and everyone takes notice. She is so lovely swathed in white lace and gloves and a stylish hat. All the men are besotted with this mysterious stranger. She goes about the town and paints. But little Brian (the most perceptive character of all) is the first to notice that something is very wrong with this woman. As always Dr. Quinn's probing uncovers the problem—literally. The woman wears gloves and veils not only to be stylish, but to hide her leprosy.


Immediately the whole town is in a furious uproar. They want her gone on the next train. They don't want someone with this “dirty” disease in their midst. They call a town meeting. Dr. Quinn tries to be the voice of reason. She explains that leprosy is not nearly as contagious as had once been thought. But the town's mind is made up. Even Dr. Quinn and Sully (who usually doesn't fall in with the status quo). But you see Dr. Quinn is pregnant with their first child, and Sully is worried.

Finally, the doctor part of Michaela wins. She will treat the woman. She will use gloves and iodine and take all the precautions she can. She won't have to directly touch the woman's skin. But the woman is shunned by the other townsfolk. Even Dr. Quinn is avoided.

The final scene has all the main characters standing together in front of the clinic. Brian has just brought the news—the woman has left on the train. And you can see the dawning on all their faces. They realize they have hurt a lovely woman. They turned away someone who needed healing and acceptance.

Sully has the last word, “We didn't do right by her. We didn't do right.”

In Mark, Jesus is approached by a man with leprosy. The man is on his knees begging Jesus to heal him. Begging. He says that if Jesus is willing he can heal him.

Everyone with Jesus holds their breath. Even his disciples are shuffling to put some space between them and the “unclean” man.

There is desperation in the man's voice. This Jesus is his last hope.

If ever I loved Jesus I love him more as I watch him with this man. Jesus says, “I am willing.”

And what Jesus does next causes everyone to let out their breath with a gasp. It is a gasp of fear and disgust. Jesus reaches out and touches the man. And the man is healed.

Jesus touched the man. Jesus understood that this man needed a far deeper healing than to simply be rid of leprosy. He understood the shunning and the stigma this disease carried. Jesus understood the isolation leprosy inflicted on a person. He knew that people saw the disease and not the man or woman. This man needed to be made whole. He needed to be given the opportunity to be accepted. How long had it been since the man had been touched? How long since someone had looked purposefully in his eyes and reached out and intentionally touched him?

All of Jesus' disciples are watching. And in watching they learn a powerful lesson. Healing the body is often an easier task than healing the spirit and the soul of a person. Jesus gave this man what he needed most.

Dr. Quinn, Sully, and all the town's characters wounded the woman even deeper. They increased her isolation and fed the stigma that marked her. They sent her away with another gaping hole.

They didn't do right by her.

Jesus did send the man away. But he sent him away whole. Jesus closed the gaping hole that was about to swallow the man. He touched him.

Jesus did right by this man.

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