In this weird, unprecedented time of social distancing, people are having to make decisions they’ve never had to make before.
- Do I go visit my widowed, lonely mother and break my nuclear family quarantine?
- Do I go to work and put my family in danger because of imminent exposure to the virus, or be fired leaving us with no income?
- Do I break our isolation to bring my friend the meal I signed up for when she first found out she had cancer?
- Do I send my kids to daycare so I can work even though a child tested positive for the virus last week?
The choices people are making are personal, and endless. The questions above aren’t hypothetical; they are real dilemmas four of my friends faced last month.
And it’s just getting harder. As the virus continues to spread, tougher decisions are being made and people, frustrated and afraid, are pointing fingers.
In an already heated political climate, this virus serves as an accelerant to the polarization of a nation, a Civil War divided by viewpoint instead of geography. Some blame the President; others think he’s doing the best he can given the mistakes of the World Health Organization. Some think lawmakers are going overboard and systematically stripping us of rights; others think they are trying to protect us. Some believe we are taking baby steps into the tribulation; others dismiss any notion of God, much less the rapture.
I look out the window, into a beautiful sunshiny day that belies the dark turn our country has taken, and I pause, unsure of what to say next. This isn’t a political blog, it never has been. I think God hates politics as much as he hates religion. He’s about people. He’s about relationships. And this is where I find myself today.
We are all in this together. (I feel like Zac Efron is going to jump up behind me with a basketball right now, but it’s true.) We should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down.
I believe people are inherently good. That’s not ignorance, it’s truth. We are made in God’s image, after all. Some do not know Him, do not believe in Him. I was once one of those people too. Did that mean I was formed differently or made to be a bad person? Not at all. It is His desire that we all will turn to Him.
In that vain, I believe that most people are making decisions at this time with the best of intentions. Sure, there are some who believe they are immortal and putting others at risk. (I have photos of a girl in 1985 who thought she was invincible. She looks oddly similar, albeit thinner than the girl I see in the mirror every day.) And there are people with hidden agendas using this for what they think is their master plan. (They are probably more ignorant than the teenager if they don’t realize they are merely marionettes for a fallen angel on a fool’s mission to seek revenge.) But MOST people are doing their best with the information they have.
That includes our leaders.
Michigan is taking a beating today as the governor has banned in-store purchases of non-essential items like arts and crafts, toys, and gardening supplies. I understand the reasoning- less to buy puts less in stores- although I also understand the mental health needs of keeping your hands busy and your kids entertained. My husband and I have it fairly easy. Two dogs who sleep more than we do, no kids at home, entertainment, food, and no schedule. In short, it’s almost like a vacation. Yet, even then, we get a little stir crazy. Today, I made a picnic lunch and we went outside and ate on a blanket. I needed the sun, needed the fresh air. It’s hard to determine what someone’s essential needs are, especially those in much more difficult situations than we are. Yet, this governor did. While I don’t agree with her decision, I’m giving her the benefit of doubt.
Last Saturday, a pastor in Virginia died of the coronavirus after holding services despite social distancing recommendations in March. He believed that God was stronger than the virus. Now that is a true statement; He wasn’t wrong. This pastor actually stopped holding services once gatherings were banned (though this is a lesser-known fact in the narrative) but he still died almost three weeks later. Did I agree with HIS decision? No. But I know the decision he had to make wasn’t easy because we had to make the exact same one ourselves. God had protected us from the flu, lice, and scabies when we worked closely with the homeless. He protected us from staph, strep, and c. diff when visiting hospital patients. Surely He would protect us from the coronavirus. Did that extend to our congregation? Did people need us to be open or did we need to close to keep them safe? Like the Virginia pastor, there were no bans in place at first, just suggestions, and for every member wanting us to shut our doors, there was one wanting us to stay open. It wasn’t an easy decision but ultimately we decided to shut our doors and move services online. Even then, we weren’t sure we’d done the right thing at first. This pastor made a decision, one that will be debated and even ridiculed for days to come, and instead of mourning his loss, the public is celebrating his demise.
Is this what we’ve come to?
I reached out to the pastor’s daughter yesterday. I knew what she was about to go through and I knew that the public would not only NOT be on her side, but they were going to be vicious. I wasn’t wrong. If Jesus went into a Yahoo forum and said let he who has never made a mistake, write the first comment….there would probably be just as many vile comments. Some have consciences seared with a hot iron and I can only pray the pastor’s family stays away from these articles and comments. And that she took comfort in our conversation yesterday, knowing that there were still people out there with compassion and empathy.
There’s a reason my heart has been with both of these situations today and that reason is my father.
Like the governor of Michigan, my dad made an unpopular decision as Chief of Police in the early 90’s. He banned the use of flag pins on police officer uniforms. He wasn’t opposed to the flag, or any patriotic symbol. But the uniform code clearly stated that no additional pins could be worn. He had to make a decision: enforce it as written or allow the flag pins, thereby opening arguments about other pins, one that could potentially cause division within the community. In order to keep the can of worms closed, he prohibited wearing flag pins. Oh. my. goodness. He was vilified in the press. Unpatriotic. Anti-american. People stole our trash cans, egged our house, shouted as they drove past. It was a decision he made, a mar on an otherwise easy tenure, that would have faced opposition no matter which way he went. My son, now an officer in the same department, points out the pins he now (legally) wears on his uniform. “Yeah they lifted that ban when you retired,” he lightheartedly teases. My dad, relieved that he no longer has to make such controversial decisions, just laughs. “Yeah, I probably would do that differently now.” Did he have an agenda? Was he an evil anarchist? Did he go on to turn Alexandria into a communist city with totalitarian leadership? Of course not. He made a decision about buttons.
Fast forward to today. My parents home is the hub of our extended family and PawPaw is the epicenter. While Louisiana itself was becoming another epicenter of the coronavirus, the activity at my parents’ house did’t slow down. I would fuss every day at the photos on the family thread of all the visitors. “THAT’S NOT SOCIAL DISTANCING!!” I’d scream. “Well I’m in just as much danger going to work,” Dad would reply. This was true. Flying daily to foreign countries was part of his job and a co-worker had already been let go for refusing to fly. Personally, I’d just as soon see my dad lose his job than his life, and told him often, but it was his decision to make. For three weeks I fussed about it though. Especially after fellow flight crew members tested positive. Then came the call. He’d tested positive as well and was very sick.
What was I going to say? I told you so? Little comfort THAT statement makes. Besides, I didn’t care. I just wanted him to be okay. If I could do it over, I would go back and spend those three weeks telling him I loved him and reminiscing instead of fussing. Fortunately he seems to be on the mend now but I won’t waste time on the hows and whys.
Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as well for this pastor’s family has had to hear things like He deserved it. No sympathy here. Serves him right. Really? Since when does making a mistake deserve death? For that matter, how do we even know the two are mutually exclusive? What if he actually got sick at the post office? Or the grocery store? Anyway, does it even matter? A man died. A husband. A father. A grandfather. A friend. Is it necessary to put him on trial posthumously?
We need to put our blame-pointing fingers down, close our hatred-spewing mouths, and clean our battle-scuffed glasses to see the world just a little brighter….