maybe I’m crazy…

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m not. But I’ve seen good things come of this unprecedented time. I also know it’s been hard and unexpected.

Through my personal, professional, counseling, mediation, and other multiple encouraging efforts… through witnessing those who’ve had birthdays, graduations, celebrations, and have intentionally commented how this time has been like no other… so different… acknowledging the inability to gather and to touch… to touch, I say again. Still people have said what they most wanted to say… through drive by’s, acknowledgements…. we’ve been more deliberate in our wishes and words.

Hence, the Intramuralist continues to ask questions… remembering that the question mark is the only punctuation piece that invites a response…

… willingly… wanting… expectantly…

And so in my desire to continue to handle the quarantine in a wise way, recognizing each of us — no matter our age or stage — has an opportunity to grow, I ask 10 simple questions…

… humbly … always…

1. Is it ok for us to have different levels of outrage in response to all this corona crud?

2. Are any of us in a position in which we can tell everyone else how they need to respond?

3. Does it make sense that there’s a difference in how people in different parts of the county respond? In other words, should we expect the same in jam-packed New York City compared to Big Sky, blue Montana?

4. What good have you seen during this time? Is there anything that’s still amazing?

5. Who are you putting your trust in? … a person, government, something better and more?

6. What will actually be better as a result of this? Can you see anything better and more?

7. If the great big God of the universe has allowed this crazy time to exist, believing he’s big enough and so much more powerful and able to stop all now if he wants to, what might he want each of us to learn and glean from this situation? What is that? Is there something?

Then I must also ask…

8. Where have I judged another person, actually finding fault in them, because their approach and their emotion and reaction to this is different than my approach and my emotion?

9. Was my judgment wise? … or was I thinking I’m capable of superseding the role of the great big God of the universe?

No man is perfect. No one is right in all they think and believe. Am I humble enough to acknowledge such?

And one more Q…

10. In ESPN’s recent, totally awesome “Last Dance” documentary, detailing the end of Michael Jordan’s NBA career, they say that Michael never allowed what he couldn’t control to get inside his head. In this crazy time, that seems totally applicable— do I recognize that?

Where do I let things inside my head that I can’t control?

Where do I lash out inappropriately on social media?

And where do I then treat others wrongly because they aren’t responding as I am?

Hmmm… 

I’m thinking I’m maybe not so crazy…

… even though each of us have so much more to learn…

Respectfully…

AR

jerks

As has been stated here, one of my resolutions for 2020 was to read more books. Thank you, COVID-19, for allowing me to check that box off so early in the year.

Currently in the middle of book #15 — which I’m not quite ready to disclose, as I’m not enough of the way through to fully endorse — it’s a book about not being a “jerk” when discussing politics. Suffice it to say, I like it.

For the purposes of clear communication, allow us first to define the word “jerk.” Dr. Stephanie Sarkis, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, offers 6 reasons in Psychology Today why some of us may have (gleefully or not so gleefully) earned this title:

  1. You only talk about yourself.
  2. You tell offensive jokes or use offensive language.
  3. You’re pushy and intrusive.
  4. You’re mean.
  5. You show disrespect for others and their opinions.
  6. You whine and/or complain.

Lest to ensure I don’t violate the Intramuralist’s desire to never point more fingers at another than self, to be frank, many days I have done one, two, or maybe even — ghastlyall of the above. Some days I have been a “jerk.”

Thankfully, there is always more that defines each of us than those unflattering moments — a truth we often, unfortunately forget when pointing fingers.

So allow me to offer the wisdom of articulate author Eugene Cho — also the founder and visionary of “One Day’s Wages,” a grassroots movement focused on alleviating extreme global poverty. Cho encourages two thoughts/questions to ask and keep in mind when discussing politics with another — that is, if we don’t want to be a “jerk”:

  1. Help me understand what you believe.
  2. What brought you to those conclusions?

Friends, it does not matter the topic.

Look, no less, at this week’s trending topics…

  • To re-open or stay shut down…
  • Should we wear a mask in public?
  • What about when a vaccine becomes available? Can government mandate we all take it?
  • How much money should government spend to help the people? …the states? How in debt can we go?
  • I can’t focus on corona. I’m still shaken by the awful injustice that happened to Ahmaud Arbery.
  • I simply can’t stand Trump. In fact, I hate him.
  • Is Joe Biden the answer? His cognitive decline is glaring.
  • And Pelosi? Don’t get me started.
  • Then there’s Michael Flynn, Elon Musk, Tara Reade, Harry & Meghan… so many people I’m not sure I want to pay attention to.
  • And the Supreme Court… multiple decisions are coming soon. Great. One more thing to fight about.

So let me suggest we don’t… we don’t fight… that we intentionally avoid being “jerks.” After all, I’ve never known a “jerk” who was thought to have influenced the world in wonderful ways. Let’s instead keep the above thoughts/questions in mind. I hear you. I get it; it’s hard. Agreed. Note the added encouragement from Cho:

“This requires being good listeners. People who met Pope John Paul II throughout his life remarked about what an intense listener he was. It seemed that nothing else existed to him when he engaged with someone. Have you ever spoken with someone like that? If you have, I’m sure you can picture them right now and recall how they made you feel.

In any conversation, political or otherwise, each of us can choose to give the gift of listening to others. That’s good news for the future of our world.”

… giving the gift of listening…

Time to finish the book. Suffice it to say, I like it. 

Respectfully…

AR

will we repeat (or learn from) history?

“Without consensus, there is no consent — that’s almost a redundancy: The two words come from the same Latin root meaning ‘agree,’ but each has its own special role in the political lexicon. We speak of ‘consensus’ as a generally agreed-upon fact or set of facts, often with the qualifier ‘expert’ or the mock-qualifier ‘elite,’ but we consent to a course of action, a regime, or a state, which can deploy force legitimately only with ‘the consent of the governed.’ That’s… Democracy 101.

When you lose the ability to forge consensus, you begin to forfeit consent, and effective governance becomes difficult if not impossible — as we are seeing right now in the coronavirus response…” (author Kevin D. Williamson) 

One of the challenges in wisely navigating through the current corona crud is discerning consensus; there is not a generally agreed-upon set of facts. All sorts of people say all sorts of things, boldly asserting that their persuasion equates with truth. Additionally, anyone who shares any kind of contradicting conception is simply wrong. The biased media perpetuates the problem.

To be clear, consensus does not mean we each hold the same passion and agree entirely with the depth of every aspect. Consensus is more of a spectrum that allows for variation of response. That spectrum then paves the path to solution, making effective governance possible. Know, therefore, in order to build consensus, we’re not suggesting pure compromise; we are instead suggesting sincere listening. We need to listen better to the different. Whatever the issue. It takes hard work to build consensus. 

I was struck, no less — and somewhat fascinated — that even in our current polarized, socio-political, tribal state — where politics and power often seem to matter more than integrity — that this isn’t the first time we’ve disagreed on an established set of facts during a quarantine…

Per the New York Public Library (select statements shared for the purposes of brevity and relevance):

* Between 1791 and 1807, yellow fever was reported to have caused the deaths of 5,000 people in New York City. 

* In 1799, the state legislature passed the Quarantine Act, “to provide against infectious and pestilential diseases,” including punishments against doctors and ship masters who failed to report sick passengers to the Quarantine Hospital…

* By 1858, there was still no standard agreement between medical professionals about what caused the “black vomit.”

* Residents in the Tompkinsville vicinity [a village in the town of Castleton on Staten Island] formed the Castleton Board of Health as an opposing body to state health officials.

* The Times characterized the hotel [opposition board meetings] as populated by “citizens who congregate there to enjoy their lager and berate the Quarantine.”

* In the summer of 1858, rumors abound of the spread of the “black vomit.”

* Fed-up and panicked, locals mobilized.

* In 1858, residents of Tompkinsville… set fire to the buildings of the nearby Quarantine Hospital [the quarantine comprised over a dozen buildings].

* Quarantine doctors sent a dispatch imploring the Richmond County Sheriff to form a posse and defend the buildings, but the message received no answer and no posse arrived — the Sheriff took sides with the anti-Quarantinists.

* Onlookers from passing boats in the harbor were said to have cheered “in the most hearty manner” in support of the conflagration.

* Newspapers called it “The Quarantine War,” “The Quarantine Riot,” “The Staten Island Arson,” “The Burning of the Quarantine,” “The Staten Island Rebellion,” and “The Quarantine Imbroglio.”

* The state identified the fires as acts of lawlessness.

* The people justified violence as civic duty.

* Local citizens feared the spread of yellow fever and were enraged by the lack of empathy by city and state officials.

What’s the point of today’s more historical post?

Just looking at the dangers when we give up on the hard work of building consensus.

Respectfully…

AR

this is the day…

A little over 18 years ago, I felt like I got burned.

Here I was, our third son had just been born, and within an hour, the very intelligent, but awful-bedside-mannered geneticist was in our room, suggesting this must be “the saddest day of your whole life.”

There’s something within me, hearing those words once more, that makes me want to fight…

No, I give no man the power to declare for bad or sad what God has allowed to play out for good.

It wasn’t that the day wasn’t hard or sad or other perhaps well-intentioned adjectives. I just knew that such wasn’t the way it had to be.

There’s something about having a child born with a disability that’s humbling from the onset. There’s this big pit in the stomach and gulp in the throat that parents who share this experience can immediately recognize in one another, just looking them in the eye. It’s a little of this, “Lord, how in the *&$%#! am I going to do this! You trained me for something else! I have all these plans… all these expectations…”

And just like that, you have to throw the plans and expectations right out the nearest window.

For Josh, it was trisomy 21 — Down syndrome — or a third copy of that twenty-first chromosome. Additionally, he had an atrioventricular (AV) canal defect, meaning there was a hole between his heart’s chambers and the valves that allow the blood to flow — an unsurvivable condition unless fixed in the early months of life.

Also for Josh, he got sick before then with a nasty respiratory virus (aka RSV). As documented here, we spent most of the month of March of 2002 in the cardiac ICU wing at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Joshua was on a respirator most of that time, unable to breathe on his own, with many moments terrifyingly touch and go.

But once the shock wears off and the medical issues are for the most part dealt with, then comes real life. Real life for the parents of children with special needs means changing your expectations, loving them just like any other kid, preparing them for adulthood, focusing more on what they will teach you as opposed to what you will teach them.

I can remember thinking at some point in those early years… “Yeah, fine… this is all well and good and true. He’s kind of cute right now. And everyone always talks about how loving kids with Down’s are. But what about when he’s not so little any more? What about when he’s not so cute? What about when puberty’s past, and he has man hair and everything? What will we do then?!”

And if I’m honest, I admit. That day scared me.

Friends, today is that day.

Today, Josh finishes his last day of high school.

And it’s a little crazy. I mean, with the spring of 2020 being nothing like how we thought the spring was going to be, the reality is that the story of my life is nothing like I thought it was going to be.

But what’s crazy? 

It’s better.

I have learned more. Grown more. Been tugged and stretched and maybe cried more. Learning more about who God is and who I am in relation to him. But it has never been anywhere close to the so-called saddest day.

Four days ago, I was standing in my kitchen, so proud of myself for being again really creative, making a homemade, pretty gourmet-ish, spicy sauce. As the container I was holding slipped out of my hand, I instinctively brought my non-oven-mitt-covered hand over to catch the falling container. I then quite painfully burned a good two-and-a-half by four inch section of my left wrist. Friends, it was nothing short of awful. 

Just yesterday, no less, I looked down at my still sore, probably-now-scarred arm and noticed something…

Right in the middle of the charred skin, there is a well defined, small shape. Clearly, there is a heart, smack dab in the middle of my wound. Yes, I was wearing a thin bracelet with a small heart charm. With burning hot sauce caught on the charm but the bracelet not immediately removed, the charm essentially served as a branding device on my wrist. But what was crazy, was that it was only when I was willing to look a bit past the burn and the pain — which still sometimes exists — could I finally see the beautiful. And now, that is all I see.

Congratulations to our Joshua. What a glorious day today is… what a special celebration!

It is beautiful indeed.

Joyfully…

AR

confronting racism together

Before we begin, allow me to rawly reveal that I’m pretty hesitant to write this. Many won’t like it, and many more may camp out on one point or another, potentially ignoring the whole of this post. It’s thus really hard. And one thing we’ve learned from the last few months is that collectively, we’re not always very good with the hard. Each of us has opinions, persuasions, and convictions that impede our ability to learn, communicate, and respect the different. We sometimes often stink at listening. But I believe this discussion is too important not to try…

When the video of Ahmaud Arbery was released this week, the nation was outraged. The President and presidential hopefuls decried the situation, calling for justice.

Arbery was jogging on a sunny afternoon through a residential neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia. He is 25. He is black.

64 and 34 year old Greg and Travis McMichael — a father and son — in their stationary pick up truck, shot him. They are white.

This happened two months ago. No one was charged. No one arrested. Until this week. When the world saw the video. 

Current reporting is that District Attorney Jackie Johnson refused to arrest the men, as she is friends with the father. Said Commissioner Allen Booker, “The police at the scene went to her [DA Johnson], saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation. She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.” (Greg McMichael recently retired after a lengthy career as an investigator in the Brunswick district attorney’s office.)

If you have not seen it, know that the video is horrific, heinous and heartbreaking. Nothing short of grievous. While the Intramuralist will always advocate for due process, the two men who shot Ahmaud Arbery should have been arrested long ago. It doesn’t take two months to discern what they did is inhumane, illegal, evil and wrong.

Hence, I find myself fumbling with all sorts of questions. Join me, if you will — albeit I request you do so humbly…

Why did it take so long for the men to be arrested?

Was it because they are white?

Was it because of their law enforcement ties?

Did they receive any benefit of doubt because of the color of their skin?

Did Ahmaud Arbery not receive any benefit of doubt because of the color of his skin?

Let us bond together. Let us recognize that this isn’t a black, white, Republican, Democrat, Christian, non-Christian issue. This is a human issue. This is us. Like so many places where humankind draws a non-divine dividing line, this is an issue in which we all must come together to do life better.

But it’s tough for us to realize “this is us” because the conversation typically stops before it ever gets started, even though racism unfortunately still exists.

Over the past three months, I have read seven books from seven authors and angles in order to better understand this issue. Please don’t think of me as an expert. I am not. I simply desire to be more aware and love all people better because of that awareness. 

An initial key to awareness on this topic, I believe, is to recognize that there are two dominant ways we tend to define racism, and we tend to look at it wholly from one or the other perspective. We define racism as either (1) individual or (2) structural. Individual racism would be defined as something overtly done by one person to another. Structural racism would be defined by how society perpetuates racism through the social structures in which we live. Writes articulate, African American sociologist, George Yancey, “Individualists do not understand why fixing racist structure in society is so important because they do not believe that racism is found in social structures. Likewise structuralists cannot understand how individualists can fail to see the problem with structures, and they believe that individualists are insensitive to the real issues of racial inequality.” And with that lack of understanding and sensitivity, the conversation ceases.

Maybe that’s the main point of today, as one post, one blog, one conversation is not going to solve this massive issue. We have work to do. But maybe, just maybe, we can stop talking past each other and start with individual awareness…

Where am I insensitive?

Where am I unaware?

What am I ignoring?

Am I ignoring that racism still exists?

Am I also or instead ignoring my own errancy, arrogance and sin?

Note as we strive first for individual awareness, these are questions we ask ourselves. I get it. I understand the shouting at others and actually respect the passion behind it. I simply believe shouting at another typically doesn’t make the other want to be more like you.

So let us be humble. May we have deep compassion for the person of color who is once again pained. May we also have respect for the person in majority culture who is outraged but expresses it differently.

But most of all, let us begin. Let us become more aware. After all, this is us.

Respectfully…

AR

the current good, bad & ugly

There is always good. Even when we can’t see it, even when times are uncertain, there is always good. We are created in the image of One who loves us like crazy no matter what; hence, I will always say, there is always good…

… like the friend of a friend who was released from the hospital yesterday, after weeks on a respirator, wrestling with COVID-19… multiple days were touch and go. (Note: according to the John Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, as of Monday, 187,180 have actually recovered from the virus!)

… like the “Adopt a Senior” projects around the country, where individuals and families pick a high school senior to affirm and spoil, knowing the traditional pomp and circumstance will not occur, sweetly brightening their days.

… like Andrea Pien, a 33-year-old college counselor at a San Francisco high school… while still working and receiving a salary during the shut down, a while back she received a substantial inheritance from her father’s professional success. She tweeted to her neighbors that if money was tight and they needed some food or supplies right now, let her know. “I will send you 20 dollars, no questions asked.” No questions asked!

Unfortunately, there still exists bad…

… like the COVID cases that continue to exist… as of Monday night, there are now 1,180,288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 68,922 deaths. Also according to the Dashboard, the mortality rate among confirmed cases is 5.8%. (Note: the true mortality rate is believed to be lower, but “it’s impossible to determine precisely due to incomplete testing regimens.”)

… like the political polarization of the current scenario… politics pales in comparison to what we as a country most need to do: bond together, recognize our humanity — which is what we most have in common — so we can craft a viable path forward. As former Pres. George W. Bush tweeted over the weekend, “Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable, and equally wonderful, in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.” Indeed. Let us remember how small our differences are. When we instead choose to magnify them, we play into the problem.

… like the media bias and hypocrisy… the cliché is true that “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again”… the media has an agenda. Pick your subject. Pick your source. Watch how the angle changes pending who/what is involved. I often wonder whether we really watch the news primarily to confirm what we want to believe.

And then there is the ugly…

Actually, as a person who sincerely wishes to wrestle with reality but simultaneously focus on all that is good and right and true, I’m hesitant to give “the ugly” a shout out; it seems unworthy of acknowledgement.

Yet I will say in recent weeks I’ve wondered what we’re turning a blind eye to. What are we ignoring — perhaps included in the good and bad above — in order to believe what we want to, feel what we want to, or be loyal to what we wish? What are we missing?

What am I not paying any attention to because it doesn’t fit with the narrative I want to believe? 

…however good, bad or ugly?

A wise friend asked me the other day if I’ve changed my mind on anything recently; it’s a fantastic question. Hard, too, I must admit. Sometimes I insulate myself and my opinions by surrounding myself with sources, souls, and stories that only reinforce what I want to feel or already believe. That insulation is so convenient… it means I don’t have to grow or change my mind on anything!

But what if what that really identifies is not an honorable passion or loyalty within me? What if instead it reveals my own lack of humility? … that I’m unwilling to wrestle with reality?

And maybe, just maybe, today that’s the ugly.

Respectfully… always…

AR

note to the graduate ’20

I was originally expecting to post remotely this day. My oldest would have been walking across the Stephen C. O’Connell Center stage at the University of Florida, receiving his B.S. in Chemical Engineering. We would have spent the weekend in Gainesville, where two days prior would have been the university-wide, evening commencement ceremony in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the 18th largest stadium in the world. But the celebration is, well…

Different.

Hear me, please. The celebration is not gone, absent, nor nonexistent. The congratulations are no lesser nor does this change any plans of our kids’ hope and future. For while the pomp in our current circumstances is diluted, the celebration still exists. It’s simply different. We still celebrate each of our accomplished-in-their-own-way graduates… and they still need our wise words… hence…

Remember, grad… 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance…

As you enter adulthood — even in these current crazy, uncertain times — allow us to address some brief truths as you focus on these few, albeit humongous next steps…

First, there really is a time for everything — every activity under heaven, every season under the sun. To be clear, you will not desire each of these times. Every activity will not be awesome nor every season incredibly joyous nor fun. Don’t let me discourage you; that’s not my intent. My intent is for you to be prepared to wisely wrestle with reality.

Remember that to enjoy and to embrace are not the same thing. As you face life’s next chapters, the truth is that there will be seasons and chapters that stretch you beyond your wildest imagination — beyond where you ever thought you’d go or perhaps ever even wanted. You have a choice in how to respond. Remember that. When the time comes to tear down or turn away, embrace the time; when the time comes to speak, speak — laugh, laugh — and certainly grieve, grieve. Enjoying the season is less important than learning from the experience. The wise man learns and grows from every experience… from the seasons that are hard. Even yes, from now.

Second — and don’t let me shock you — but contrary to any long-held belief or fictional, rhetorical chant, you cannot be whatever you want to be. Sorry. Remember we are wrestling with reality. (Note: I apologize now on behalf of parents everywhere for not always promoting reality either; see Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and/or that jolly old St. Nick).

The reality is you (we) cannot be whatever/whoever you want to be (ie. see the many who’ve thought they should be President). You can, though, be all that God created you to be. How?

Embrace your gifts. Utilize the unique wiring within you — the wiring that makes you distinctly, uniquely you. Don’t compare yourself to another, falling prey to society’s hollow teaching that another person’s wiring or set up is somehow better or worse than yours. Simply embrace your own strengths and grow from your weaknesses. Seek God first; seek his intention for your life. Then be who he created you to be, and do what he created you to do. Don’t compare your calling to any other. It will never be lesser. So whatever you do, do it well. 

And third — perhaps because I’m more verbose than I wish to admit — allow me to humbly offer our traditional, brief, rapid fire of final encouragement — those final things we parents wish to say once more as we pass the blessed baton into adulthood…

Love deeply. Extend grace generously. Never view grace and truth as opposites, as each should be applied in full measure. Wash your sheets. More than twice a year. Don’t be selfish. Resist any quickness to anger. Be fast to forgive. Be humble. Forgive again. Pursue wisdom. Don’t judge any by the color of their skin. Don’t judge period. Know the difference between judgment and discerning right from wrong. Consider coffee. Be careful with sugar. Be intentional in enjoying a good donut. Be intentional with more. Take an interest in others. Be sincere. Separate the reds from the whites. Laugh when you forget. Be charitable. Save some. Spend some. Give some away. Don’t be afraid of sorrow. Turn off the XBOX. Put down the device. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t think of equality with God as something to be grasped. Listen to the elderly; touch them. Invest in the young. Bow. Curtsy. Open doors for other people. Don’t make it about you. Show respect — in what you say and how you think. Remember that respect does not mean accepting as equally good and true. Remember that all things are not equally good and true. Know when to say that; know when to not. Look another in the eye. Use your napkin. Be discerning. Be aware that just because something feels good, it might not be wise. Be prayerful. Figure the faith thing out. And embrace each and every season shared above. Embrace the time to laugh. Cry. Grieve. And yes, dance.

There is a time for everything. Still and especially now. Don’t let the current circumstance make you doubt the hope and the future God has planned for you. He has a plan. It is good.

Graduates, still now, it’s your time to dance. Enjoy as we so celebrate you.

To the Class of 2020…

AR

the question that gets in the way

Who do I think of myself as better than?

I keep playing with that question.

In all honesty, I kind of hate it.

I hate the fact that I often have an answer to it.

I hate the fact that you probably have an answer to it, too.

My apologies… it’s not a hatred of you nor me. It’s more that I believe the veiled reality that we see ourselves as better than certain others impedes individual wisdom and collective solution. It kills community. It also seems to encourage the tribal mentality that is currently eroding our country’s core, constitutional fabric.

So allow me to humbly but boldly ask again…

Who do you think of yourself as better than?

Donald Trump?

Nancy Pelosi?

All Republicans or Democrats in general?

White people? Black people? Any person of color?

How about any “woke” or “non-woke” person?

What about a less educated person?

A person who is poorer?

Shorter?

Older? Younger?

Less athletic?

Less attractive?

Less faithful?

Less intelligent?

Disabled?

The person who struggles with ____________?

Who do you see yourself as better than?

A person who is taking too many precautions during the coronavirus?

A person who is not taking enough precautions during the coronavirus?

All those wannabe beachgoers in Florida? 

The people locked down in New York City?

CNN, MSNBC, FOX News watchers?

How about fans of Chris Cuomo, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or Rachel Maddow?

Who do you see yourself as better than?

Allow me to address the question with two percipient more… 

Do we truly believe that “out of many, we are one”?

“That all are created equal, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

Then perhaps we work on eradicating our answers to the first question… and we work, too, on  dismissing the imprudent idea that we know best how the Creator’s image should appear in someone other than self.

Respectfully…

AR

stay shut down?

We should be open!

We need to stay closed!

Live free or die!

They’re so stupid!

And thus continue the rhetorical rants heard from Huntington Beach, California to Michigan’s capital city of Lansing to those of us who prefer the more comfortable, unchallengeable insulation behind our own social media keyboards. 

With great respect for individual passion, opinion and conviction, the issue is this:

How long can businesses stay closed and people stay home before we are doing more harm than good?

Please hear no passion nor persuasion in the above question; there is not. My desire is simply to frame the issue in such a way that we are each more likely to respect the passion, opinion, and conviction of the one who thinks differently than we. Like pretty much always, there are good people on all sides of the issue; there exist reasonable people who disagree. If we would only learn to be more reverent and gracious of the different, we would be a far wiser people. Notice I did not say “intelligent.” There are way too many intelligent people who have yet to pursue wisdom first.

Hence, back to our most timely question…

In our efforts to flatten the curve, contain the virus, and stop the spread, our federal and state governments have ordered life as we know it to cease. The goal is to reduce the strain on our healthcare system, knowing we do not yet have an effective solution or antibody to COVID-19.

Some businesses have been deemed essential; some have not; some have seemed questionably deemed essential; some have not. There’s a degree of subjectivity to it, but the reality is our state economies have been either shut down or grossly restricted in response to how the pandemic is playing out. The challenge is that our lives are not only affected by how the pandemic plays out but also from economic activity. A shut down economy affects lives.

Some businesses may never reopen. Some professional livelihoods will never be renewed. Many may never recover. And the impact of the shut down and sheltering on our individual mental health is already being reported as exponential… unemployment, isolation, loss of income, anxiety, trauma, death of a loved one, etc. Psychology Today ran a recent editorial pondering the extent of exactly that: “Will COVID-19 make the suicide crisis worse?”

The point is, friends, that there is a cost to staying open.

And there is a cost to staying shut.

Let us thus resist those who desire to pare the problem down to a false, binary choice of choosing people or profit. We are choosing people. We simply recognize there is a cost to whatever we choose.

Ideally, we could navigate toward solution in a way that omits the denigration and disrespect found in far more than California, Michigan, or on our keyboards. This is not an easy problem to solve.

My sense is we should start by treating this challenge similarly to how we approach gun control. Stay with me here…

One of the challenges with the gun control issue is that due to respected passion, opinion, and conviction, many seemingly shout from the rooftops of what the plan needs to be for all of us… ie. No more thoughts and prayers — get rid of the guns!…or… Be afraid — they want to confiscate our guns! Our chosen approach is prompted from such honorable passion.

But the prudent reality is what’s wise for the crammed and crowded megacities is different than what’s wise for Montana’s spacious “Big Sky Country.” One size does not fit all. One approach does not fit all either. 

Hence, it makes sense for different states, different cities, and different municipalities to do different things. May we respect that first, knowing this is challenging for us all.

Respectfully…

AR

still focused on perspective

“And with the first selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select David Carr, quarterback, from Fresno State…”

And then it continued…

The Panthers pick Julius Peppers from North Carolina.

The Lions draft Joey Harrington from Oregon.

And the Bills take Mike Williams, an offensive tackle from Texas…

Soon followed the selections of Quentin Jammer, Dwight Freeney, Jeremy Shockey and more.

As we continue to encourage the maintaining of perspective — recognizing how valuable and vital that is, especially at this time — and acknowledging first for our non-sports enthusiasts, that this post is not about football nor the building of any team’s desired roster — allow me a brief epilogue to Sunday’s conversation. Sunday was a post pointing out the challenge of each of our plights, the steady prudence of being sensitive to one another knowing such in no way minimizes our individual struggles, but acknowledging how wise one is to be aware of the bigger situation — of the entirety of all that’s going on.

I referenced spending most of the month of March of 2002 in the cardiac ICU wing. Josh had a hole in his heart that prior to repair, found in him a perilous situation, as he struggled with a nasty, respiratory virus. Also keenly comparable to the current societal situation, once able to breathe on his own again, we were officially quarantined until the surgical repair was complete several weeks later. For both the respiratory virus and the repair, we were in ICU.

For those who’ve been fortunate enough to avoid the intensive care unit, allow me to concisely describe it as a solemn, solitary place. It’s the area reserved for the patients in need of the most critical care. Their illness or injury is perceived to be life-threatening or severe, thus requiring close and constant care and supervision.

Few — if any — are allowed to visit. If so, visitors may only congregate in designated areas, far removed from patient care.

Suffice it to say, it can be a most lonely time.

I remember sitting long days alone in that room… my infant son gravely struggling… my spouse wrestling with a cold that distressingly negated his visitation… no others allowed in… talking to God far more than anyone… if I’m honest, even struggling with that.

And somewhere in that process, maybe when I was finally doing more listening than talking, I felt prompted to be a little more intentional in my gratitude…

In this crazy, isolated, unwanted time, what can I still give thanks for?

For me, I quietly then noticed what weekend it was. It was time for the National Football League’s annual amateur draft. Now allow me to be clear… while an avid sports fan, I had never watched the NFL draft. Sure, I paid attention to the more noteworthy selections, but sitting down and actually watching this marathon television event had never been something I desired nor was even all that interested in.

Except in 2002, in an event that goes on (and on and on), here now was something constant to keep me interested and encouraged… something emitting a little extra hope in the room…

… with pick 259, the Detroit Lions select Victor Rogers, a tackle from the University of Colorado…

… pick 260 sends Dominique Stevenson to the Buffalo Bills…

… and with the final selection of the 2002 NFL Draft, UNLV’s Ahmad Miller heads to the Houston Texans!

Yes, I watched all 7 rounds… all 261 picks… 

Tomorrow evening begins the 2020 NFL Draft. 18 years later. I can’t wait. Is it because I have now developed this zealous, fanatic interest in professional football??

Maybe.

But more so it does two things…

It makes me think of the perspective gleaned all those years ago… and it again reminds me of the profound effect giving gratitude can have on one’s disposition — even in crazy, isolated, and unwanted times.

Respectfully…

AR