There are many, many things that the Covid-19 pandemic has stolen from us. Whatever you believe about its origins, its prevention and treatment, or its capacity to kill, there are myriad “side effects,” of this virus : children have missed out on crucial in-person schooling; workplaces have shifted how they operate; communities have been torn apart by disagreement on its management; politicians (of all ilk) have leveraged it for their own gain. All of this has left great, gaping wounds on our lives and ways of being–both personal and communal.
And all of it has contributed mightily to what I believe to be the greatest loss of all to Covid-19: our humanity.
I have never in my lifetime seen such blatant cruelty, such apathy, such dogged determination to tear down those who do not agree with us, look like us, or believe as we do. And while these divisions among God’s people (and we are all, to a person, no matter what, God’s people, each of us loved fiercely–no more or no less than anyone else–by that same God) have always been present, it’s the way we express these divisions, the way we live them out these days, that just boggles my mind and breaks my heart.
Y’all know I have a love/hate relationship with social media–and right here with this is where the “hate” part comes in–because man-oh-man, our keyboards have been working overtime while we’ve all been stuck at home, the anonymity of an online persona, the barrier of a screen, making it all too easy to say things that very few of us would be willing to say to the face of God or Grandma.
And honestly, I get it. The rage and pain and grief we’re all carrying is real. Only we’re not facing that rage and pain and grief–we’re just taking it out on everyone else, Facebook and Twitter convenient methods for our endless game of emotional hot potato. It’s tempting to hover our fingers over those keys until just the right insult, hot take, snark or blame comes out, thereby passing on our hurt to someone else.
But y’all. To what end?
When we say that the unvaxxed shouldn’t get treament? (Do you really want a healthcare system that judges who is and who isn’t worthy of treatment? Good lord, healthcare in this country is messed up enough!)
When we use the very real tragedy of dementia to make fun of Joe Biden? (How do you think this makes those in your life who have watched someone they love die with dementia feel?)
When we say we wish Trump’s case of Covid had been harder on him, or, worse yet, taken his life? (How do you think this makes those in your life who have lost someone to Covid feel?)
When we openly mock, insult and target the children of politicians we can’t stand? (Do you really want to live in a world where children are the casualties of our grown up games?)
When we openly judge someone’s character because he or she is a cop? Or a person of color? Or gay? Or Democrat? Or Republican? Or (fill in the blank…we’ve got more labels than we know what to do with)…?
Are these the examples we really want to set for our children? Are these ways of being the tenets we really want to live by? Are we all really more concerned about claiming our tribal allegiance than real relationship with family? Friends? Neighbors?
I have a neighbor — a few doors down–he’s in his twenties, black, a young, newly married dad, and small business owner. He’s building a fence at his place. A lovely, wooden slat fence that just fits so well on our street. Building a fence is hard work, in case you did not know. It takes patience. Skill. And usually more than one person.
Early one evening last week, I took Dolly for a walk, and as we passed this neighbor’s house, I saw two other neighbors helping him with a particularly challenging part of the fence-building. Older men, both white, both deeply engaged in assisting with the task at hand.
And y’all, I cried at the beauty of it. I stood there, just letting it sink in. Neighbor helping neighbor. Such a simple thing, and yet, in these days when everything feels so awful and divided and gross…it was everything.
It was hope.
I’m so glad I saw it–and I am also so grieved that something so simple, something that should be understood, part and parcel of who we are as communities, seemed like such a big deal. Neighbor helping neighbor — even if those neighbors are different in many ways–shouldn’t be a big deal. It should just be.
We have got to reclaim our humanity, y’all.
We’ve got to walk away from the forces that threaten our common good and work towards some kind of healing. I’ve lost any hope that an elected leader is going to do it for us. And I never have believed that policies change the world, no matter how well-crafted they might be. And so when I say “we,” I mean the rest of us–you and me. Our salvation is to be found in the day-to-day work of relationship, of listening to those around us, of paying attention to who needs casserole, of seeing who might need some help around the yard this weekend, of asking, “How are you?” and then really listening for the answer, of recognizing that what’s at stake is the wellbeing of all of us…and our children’s children.
I know many of you who read this blog aren’t church folks–in fact, many of you have had such an awful experience with church, or any sort of religion in general, that it has sent you packing from any such thing. I get that.
My own faith, my own way of being, is built on the story of a baby sent to love the world in a way that we’d never seen before. Fully and completely. Always and no matter what. That baby grew into a man who loved fiercely–men, women and children from all walks of life, from all parts of town, from all sorts of jobs, from all sorts of backstory. He did not come for just one of us. He did not come for those of us who fit a certain bill or dress in the latest fashion or vote a certain way.
He lived and loved past all that would push apart, and asked us to do the same.
I stake my life on this story. And in it rests my earnest belief that something more is possible for each of us and for all of us, that there truly is a way up and out of the cluster we currently find ourselves in, that it really is possible for lions and lambs to dwell together.
I told a beloved recently that maybe I’ve been wrong. Maybe this hope I have is futile. Maybe we really are doomed. I was tired. And broken. And couldn’t summon the strength to insist on another way anymore.
Maybe it’s too much to say that my neighbor and his fence pulled me out of that moment of despair and set me on firm footing again. But then…maybe not. After all, I’d be the first one to say that we have to claim whatever hope is available, at any given moment, to see us through.
What hope is available to you? On this day? In this moment?
Our shared humanity depends on it.