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

the beauty of perspective

I remember those days completely, clearly, soberly. I remember the depth of what I felt. I remember, also, some very specific moments… like Andy and Rebecca taking turns spending the night so Mark and I could finally get some sleep… Marte´ filling my thermos with mocha each morn… Cindy bringing butterflied shrimp rockefeller to the waiting room… my family, Doug and Jan, the Y’s and more, fervently lifting us up in prayer… Dr. Claudia, too, actually calling to talk to my incoherent, infant son, as he lay there motionless, hooked up to multiple meds, unable to breathe on his own most of that month of March. He was in critical care.

My situation was dire. It was absolutely unwanted and unexpected, and it was one of the most gut-wrenching, grueling experiences of my life.

Then there was the morning more began to congregate in the room next door. In and out, members of the medical team would go. The pace was swift. The mood was somber.

A fascinating thing about the ICU wing of the hospital… no matter what’s happening in one room, the staff still has to be painstakingly attentive to who’s in each of the other rooms. When the cardiac RN went from the adjacent room and then into ours, with the tracks of her tears still evident on her cheeks, I learned the heart transplant involving ten year old Tabitha next door was unsuccessful.

Friends, I have no desire today to write about my experience in my son’s initial year of life. It’s not that I mind sharing Josh’s story — we learn so incredibly much through the gut-wrenching and grueling; it’s just that today, there’s a more relevant insight to share. It’s the value and beauty of perspective.

Perspective means understanding how a piece of a puzzle fits with the whole — how one aspect, opinion, or experience relates to the entirety of all that’s going on. While my son’s plight was awful, for example, it was still not the plight of the precious adolescent next door.

With the current economic shutdown, we hear increased grumbling. We hear frustration. We hear weariness, sadness — exhaustion and anxiousness, too.

I get it. Our plights are hard.

Key events, experiences, long-planned moments and celebrations have been cancelled… weddings, funerals, vacations, etc.

Think of graduation. High school and college grads have been dreaming of that day since they waddled through the elementary doors. All the pomp and circumstance is simply gone.

How then is wise to react?

Allow me to quote Lydia Lee, a high school senior in northwest Iowa and future Iowa State Cyclone…

“I spent days wallowing in grief over the missed opportunities I worked so hard for. My sadness was warranted, but here’s the deal: Each one of us is at a crossroads, and we must choose the path to take. We can either continue down the road of self-pity, or we can rise up.”

That’s it. Our sadness (and grumbling and frustration and weariness, etc.) actually is warranted. It’s understandable given this unwanted and unexpected situation. 

But Lydia goes one step further, which is the more relevant insight to share today. Hear it from her — not from me…

“We all seem to carry on with our lives without a care in the world until we are completely stopped in our tracks. Here’s a valuable lesson: Nothing in life is promised. And once this whole coronavirus craze is over, let’s not forget it. Make the most of every second. Know that no tomorrow is never guaranteed.

As challenging as this has been, let’s maintain perspective. Thousands of people around the world are sick and dying. Many have lost their jobs or are mourning the loss of loved ones. Though it doesn’t minimize your struggle, remember that the world is struggling alongside us. None of us is in this alone.”

Let’s maintain perspective. Our individual struggles are not minimized. Be sensitive. Simply be aware of the bigger situation, the entirety of all that’s going on… including, I soberly suggest, of the precious person next door.

For the record, Josh is scheduled to graduate this May. Not sure what that’s going to look like now — the school is still shut down, the ceremony is postponed, and people probably won’t be able to get here.

But 18 years after he lay motionless on that hospital bed, there is much to celebrate.

That’s the beauty of perspective.

Respectfully…

AR

the current marathon

Drake sings it.

Dr. Phil likes to say it.

Many more repeat it still.

“It’s a marathon — not a sprint.”

I keep thinking about that comment. I keep thinking about it especially now. While still more feel it’s a vastly overused expression, my sense is that yes, our current societal state is a marathon indeed. Right now, the concept is not overused.

Listen to how infamous marathoners speak…

From Bill Rodgers, four time Boston Marathon winner:

“The advice I have for beginners is the same philosophy that I have for runners of all levels of experience and ability: consistency, a sane approach, moderation, and making your running an enjoyable, rather than dreaded, part of your life.”

And from Grete Waitz, a nine time New York City Marathon winner:

“For every finish-line tape a runner breaks — complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras — there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.”

I’ve listened to my friends…

Marathons are hard.

They go on… and on…

Sometimes they go on longer than we’d like them to. Many of us would like to stop by mile number 19… maybe even 2…

They are mentally exhausting.

Draining, in fact.

It takes training…

A combination of preparation and mental and physical training.

And it’s so challenging…

… often the physical vs. mental — and when one seems most acute, the other becomes more prominent…

Most times it’s more mentally challenging than physically.

I hear you. Friends, this is tough… and much of the above is said by friends that have run many, many marathons… even some 24 hour, 100 mile marathons… with all due respect — that’s crazy! 

But what about when we’re done?

When done, it can be euphoric…

So proud to persevere…  

To have accomplished the goal.

In fact…

“Sometimes you’re prouder of the harder races. Those are the ones I most remember — those that were a physical and mental battle. They make me tougher. The easy days, well, they’re a blur.”

Friends, these days are indeed a marathon. They are the harder races. But take note of the growth, strength and wisdom that results from the hard. This has the potential to be good. We don’t want it to be a blur!

Granted, there’s one more elusive challenge. When a runner runs, a runner plans. They have a training schedule and a noted time frame. They know the day and they know the end. They know specifically when the end will come. They begin with the end in mind.

So what will be said of us? We don’t know the end.

But how will we run?

What will be said of us when this is done?

Remember… this could be good. We could speak of such as a growth-filled, community-building, learning-what-we-most-have-in-common time.

Let us make it so.

Respectfully…

AR

wondering about the inevitable & the illusion

COVID-19 has gotten the world’s attention.

With our daily routines suspended, with both work and play at a standstill, the distractions have dissipated. We’ve stopped and slowed down long enough to wonder. 

I speak not of wondering when major league sports will resume. I speak neither of when there will be sufficient toilet paper on the shelves or when hugs and handshakes will again be socially acceptable.

We’ve stopped and slowed down long enough to wonder about what means more.

There’s a reason that Google searches for prayer have increased exponentially over the last 4 weeks. “Skyrocketing,” in fact, might be the more accurate term. As University of Copenhagen Associate Professor of Economics Jeanet Sinding Bentzen researched and reports, it’s happening across the globe. Says Bentzen, “The rise in prayer intensity supersedes what the world has seen for years.”

I suppose it doesn’t surprise me.

Spreading so swiftly with serious symptoms and an unprecedented, potentially high mortality rate, COVID-19 is scary. Why? Because it reveals what we already knew.

As perhaps best put by my wise friend…

“Death is inevitable and control is an illusion.”

As we hear increasingly more of those inflicted with the pandemic, we get a sobering glimpse of our own mortality. Our death will happen one day, and it’s out of our control. 

I suppose, therefore, it also doesn’t surprise me that the coronavirus shutdown overlaps with Easter this year. Not with Passover either. I mean, sometimes, often, precisely because of those daily routines and work and play, I don’t always take the time to think and reflect about what means more… about who God is and who we are in relationship to him…

I don’t always take the time to ask the bigger questions… who is God? … who is man/woman? … what is salvation?… what does history say?… what happens after this?… how can I be sure I’ve done enough to get into heaven?… what am I ignoring because it’s easier or more convenient?… what have I refused to wrestle with?…

I don’t always take the time to wonder about what means more.

Easter helps me with that. It helps me first of all in that it is incredibly, widely celebrated by billions across the globe. It is the celebration of Jesus Christ, living and breathing on this planet, teaching tons of wisdom — including that he was God’s son, who was then tortured and crucified, but then (a pretty big ‘then’ here) actually came back to life. Jesus beat death, the only person on the planet to ever do so. Death was not inevitable for him.

What helps me next is knowing how all the world’s major religions — even though they choose not to worship Jesus — respect him and verify his existence. For example…

  • Buddhism teaches that Jesus was a wise teacher and enlightened. 
  • Hinduism teaches that Jesus was a wise teacher and a holy man. 
  • Islam teaches that Jesus is to be revered, that he was born of Mary, that he was a prophet, and that he actually ascended into heaven in bodily form.
  • Judaism also teaches that Jesus is to be revered and that he was born to Mary, performed many miracles, and was crucified.

It fascinates me, too, in that even the religions which existed prior to Jesus walking on this planet have come to incorporate him in their teaching or recognition of Earthly life.

All that to say that it’s often easy to not ask the questions about what means more. Sometimes we’re distracted.

But with COVID-19’s impact on Easter 2020, and the glaring reality before each of us that death is inevitable, I can’t help…

 … but wonder.

Blessings, friends… wherever you are… whatever you believe… knowing there are wise next steps for each of us to take…

Respectfully… be safe…

AR

a story to tell

As the days turn into weeks and our new normal continues, I’ve found myself wrestling with perhaps one of the most profound, emerging truths. Don’t get me wrong. I’m believing the truth has always existed. But consistent with the prudent process of maturity, maybe previously I couldn’t have seen it. Maybe previously I wouldn’t have been humble, reflective, or something-enough to recognize what’s now so obviously real.

Hence, with all due respect to our INTJ’s or ISTP’s on the Myers-Briggs scale, DISC styles S and C, and our trendy Enneagram 4’s and 5’s, we need community.

Allow me to say that once more… 

We need community.

Let us resist defining what community looks like; let us not dictate to our aforementioned introverts that they be forced into uncomfortable manifestations of gregarious sociability. But the learning here is that the need for community is not personality-based. This shutdown is acutely unveiling that.

The concept of “community” comes from from the Old French comunité — meaning “community, commonness, everybody” — which comes from the Latin communitas — “community, society, fellowship” — from communis — “common, public, general, shared by all or many.”

Commonness… everybody… shared by all or many…

What has been made glaringly obvious by this shutdown?

What is shared by all or many.

In one way, I’m thankful for the realization. I mean, as a nation — as a planet, perhaps — we have spent so much, often passionate effort in finding our identity in some sort of society-severing pursuit, valiant as we have convinced ourselves the effort may be. 

Remember Robert Putnam’s fascinating work from 2001, Bowling Alone… “Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work — but no longer.” 

The Harvard professor addresses how we as a society have depleted so much of our social capital; we have “divorced” community. He continues with the precarious consequence that “people divorced from community, occupation, and association are first and foremost among the supporters of extremism.”

It’s as if we have forgotten what’s shared by all or many.

It’s as if we have forgotten — or at the very least diminished — community.

My sense is we have diminished community by only equally valuing those who share our experience, circumstance, conviction, or ideology. And the moment equal value is reserved only for such likemindedness, we have made community something less that what it is.

We all need nourishment. We all need freedom. We all need to navigate through life in a healthy sort of way. Heck, we even all need toilet paper.

But the point is that we need each other; we need community.

No doubt what has personally, humbly helped me most is attempting to discern the biggest thing we have in common. If we can do that, then hopefully we will not value anyone lesser.

Hence, holding this truth to be self-evident, every human ever on the planet — each of us — was created in the image of God.

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic — with great respect for wherever you are — that’s the biggest common denominator I can think of: created in the image of God. And the more we look at others that way, the more we’re able to resist paring the common down to something lesser… the more we recognize what community really is.

So as we wind through these days, allow me one more question: when all this is over, when we’re at the end of COVID-19, what story will you tell?

If we say we learned we need community, such will be a very good story to tell.

Respectfully…

AR

seeking what’s better & good

Today was one of those days I actually scrapped our planned post in the eleventh hour. Make no mistake about it. And no apologies either. It’s not that the planned post wasn’t encouraging, insightful or good. It simply didn’t say enough for this poignant moment in time. I have a sincere desire to maximize the moment.

Our previous focus was targeted on what we need more of — and what we can do without right now. 

What do we need more of?

The good.

Quoting ABC 7 News in San Francisco, the Burlington Free Press, Buzzfeed, the LA Times and more, we pointed out the good.

[Speaking of good, let us still share this amazing development from www.feedingamerica.org: “We are deeply grateful for Jeff Bezos’ generous $100 million contribution to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. This donation, the largest single gift in our history, will enable us to provide more food to millions of our neighbors facing hardship during this crisis. Countless lives will be changed because of his generosity.” That is so good!]

But all that to say that my desire this day is to make a stronger, more concise point…

What we need right now is unity, community, and shared purpose.

What we don’t need is blame, partisanship, and social media rants.

Turn the news off perhaps. Is the news you watch encouraging unity, community, and shared purpose? Or is it encouraging increased blame and the pointing of fingers?

Dare I say: if the latter, that’s not helpful, wise, nor good.

Last week I heard a wise man say (who has never voted for the current President): “I don’t care who you voted for four years ago. I don’t care if you voted for Trump or can’t stand him. Right now, we should all be rooting for him to succeed.” We need each of us to be at our best right now.

Hence, this isn’t about Trump nor any other party or politician. This is about what’s best for all humankind.

Let me not diminish the valid concerns many of us have in all proverbial partisan aisles. Let me not validate nor invalidate the concerns reasonable, good thinking people have in regard to our leaders and those who desire to lead. Let me not even validate or invalidate disagreement.

But let us stand for something bigger and more.

Let us stand for solution. 

For compassion. 

And let us stand for the awareness that the COVID-19 impact and response is bigger than any human political agenda.

This is big, friends. 

Take some time to process what’s happening. Take some time to recognize this is all so out of our control; man is so incapable. Is it any wonder that Google searches for “prayer” have skyrocketed over the past two weeks?

My sense is people recognize there is something bigger and more; this isn’t all there is.

I pray we seek what’s bigger…

… what comes next?
… what comes after this?
… and how do we proceed more unified and together than before?

Let us start by proceeding with first best steps now.

Respectfully…

AR