The Bednet Bottle

05/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


Those were the not-so-sweet sounds of summer at bedtime in the days before universal air conditioning. In my memory, those night-time mosquitoes didn't zzzziinngg around the room, they screamed in my ear. Smack! I'd whack one strafing my cheek. Wack! Another on my thigh. (On hot summer nights, not even a sheet between you and "them.") The great grotesquery was if you actually got one, it was because it was a slow bug. And it was slow because it was carrying a "full load" (probably of your brother's blood). Blood on your palm. Yyuukk!

There's actually a kind of bittersweet memory that lingers from those hot, hot summer nights of long ago. But that's because no one died from them. No one in our neighborhood got malaria or any other mosquito-borne disease. No long, often deadly, fevers. (Actually, totally unbeknownst to me, there were - when I was five or six - children in the American Southeast who did die from mosquito bites in the night.) Who knew?

Today we know. Children and adults all over the tropical and sub-tropical world get sick and die from these bites in the night. And, if they survive, they are usually left in a highly weakened state for their entire lifetime. We've just spent two weeks learning more and more about malaria and not just how it can be stopped but how we can help stop it.

Action's the answer: distributing bed nets. You and your family can be the act-ers. Here's a simple way. Pay to go to bed. Get a quart- or half-gallon-sized juice bottle. Clean it out well. Decorate it as a family so you won't forget what it represents. Now it's a BedNet Bottle! Put it in a prominent place. Every night before you go to bed (this can be part of a very important nightly ritual for children), every family member pays for the privilege of a safe and quiet night's sleep. It can help you remember how blessed you are...and, what a blessing your family can be to others. Each member of the family can put in a quarter, or whatever amount, every night. (If there's a sleep-over - EVERYBODY PAYS!) If there are four of you, by the end of the month you'll have $30 dollars. That'll buy 3 bed nets every month. Thirty-six a year. Invite neighbors, friends, folks at your place of worship to join with you. (You could have "BedNet Sunday or Saturday" every month!) A hundred families could provide funds for 3,600 bed nets per year. With a BedNet Bottle. Do the math, as they say. You act and get others to act with you. It could be a movement. It can start with you. The cure for malaria is action. By us.