There’s a lot about this whole coronavirus situation I can’t seem to wrap my mind around, but one of the things that’s most difficult to believe is that, in a few short weeks, this new year we all had so many hopes and dreams for will be halfway over—and what a sobering beginning it’s been.
Many of us have had to put our plans and visions for 2020 aside and surrender to a situation that feels very much out of our control.
Some mornings, I wake up feeling positive and hopeful about it all. I feel we’re adjusting to this new way of functioning in the world and feel positive that, little by little, we’ll eventually arrive at a new normal that leaves us all more grateful, more compassionate.
Other mornings, I wake up and just feel so sad. I hate hearing story after story about people becoming ill or passing away from this thing. I hate hearing about a mystery children’s illness and medical workers having to be separated from their own kids. Perhaps what makes me saddest of all is that, during one of our darkest hours as a country, we seem more divided than ever.
Every new piece of news about the virus seems to result in people picking teams, huddling up, and trying to take down the opposing one, spewing hatefulness at the other in an effort to win. But, in a time like this, proving the other wrong doesn’t feel much like winning to me.
Even if I disagree with a brother or sister, I refuse to try to bring them down when there’s a chance they could be taken down tomorrow by the enemy we should be fighting together. I believe every crisis is here to teach us something and, if this one is here to teach us to value and appreciate those who could be gone tomorrow, I think we may really be missing the lesson.
I don’t know how to fix this. Well, I do, but it’s as simple as it is complicated. For me it’s “imagining all the people living life in peace“—that simple concept that seems to be so hard for us to execute because, well, people just don’t all think the same way. And spending precious time and energy online trying to convince others to see things the way we do is a useless endeavor.
All we can do, I suppose, is take control of ourselves and our interactions with others.
This past Sunday, I saw an acquaintance on social media ranting about the restrictions in place not allowing her to attend her weekly church service. I saw in the comments how she engaged in debates with dozens of people, arguing back and forth about the issue. I thought about the contradiction there, in fighting with your brothers and sisters over the issue of attending a place of worship—an activity that should bring us peace.
I wanted to ask her, “Why do you go to church? What does the experience bring you? And, if you can’t go to church, could you bring the church—to all your interactions, in person and online?” I wanted to tell her that, rather than becoming angry about the restrictions that keep you from being there, consider what it is you love about church and bring that to your day and your people.
Is it the worship? No one can take that practice away from you.
Is it the fellowship? Call a friend and brighten their day by just listening.
Is it the perspective and peace you feel when you take that one morning each week sit in silence and pray? That place is within you and accessible at any time.
I thought about the practice we share at my own place of worship, where we take each other’s hands, look one another in the eye with a smile, and say, “Peace be with you.” Let’s not just say those words but actually bring the energy of those words wherever we go (physically or virtually) and remember that people online are still people, even if they have wildly different beliefs than you. Maybe this is a good opportunity for all of us to walk our talk—to actually embody the things we say.
If we can’t go to the place that reminds us of our beliefs, let’s do something that really tests our faith and embody them—the love, the peace, the compassion—with every person we interact with, even and especially with the ones who make it the hardest.
If this could be what 2020 brings, what greater goal or vision for the new year could we ask for?