By David Hegg
I am thrilled at the recovery we’re seeing. There are small but significant signs that what we’re doing together is helping. We’re sensing the emergence of real hope and are encouraged by the growing joy it is bringing. My great desire is that what we’re doing will continue, not just for a few months, but forever.
Of course, I’m talking about the recovery of what it means to be good neighbors. Have you noticed? This COVID-19 experience has forced us to see life in its simplest terms, as human beings living together, caring about one another, and going out of our way to protect the most vulnerable among us. As important, we’ve been re-awakened to the fact that we need one another, that we are emotionally nourished through human interaction, and most importantly, we are better when we’re together, battling the issues together rather than warring among ourselves.
Of course, as is true in every area of human existence, there are the outliers who are mocking the whole thing, childishly refusing to abide by recommendations and regulations they find inconvenient, and generally deriding those of us who are loving our neighbors enough to comply. And they also hoard the TP! But pay no attention to those self-centered rebels. They are wrong if only because they refuse to consider the possibility they are wrong.
But I am a realist and realize that the unity we’ve begun to weave will certainly come unraveled as those with political podiums ramp up their participation in the blame game. Here’s how it will go:
Because so many have adopted a good neighbor policy and chosen to self-isolate in order to help make our environment safe for our community, it appears the effects of COVID-19 will be less than originally predicted. This will cause some to disparage all those who sounded the alarm and imposed restrictions on our way of life.
Still others will point to the fact that death has claimed far too many, businesses have failed, unemployment has risen astronomically, and the national debt has been monumentally inflated, and begin blaming everyone they feel can be blamed to their own advantage.
And that’s my point here: The blame game is selfish in all its forms and will erode whatever unity we have built fighting a common enemy. I know what is at stake in the next several months as we approach a huge election in November. It’s power. Yet, when power is gained at the expense of unity, it breeds further disrespect, anger, and ultimately, outright war.
Now, I know there are very real ideological, philosophical and theological differences in our nation. What do we expect? We are a pluralistic nation by definition and design. We are different, we will be different, and our differences will either take us down or lift us up depending on how we face them.
I do a fair amount of marital counseling, and at this time I am doing premarital counsel for two young couples getting married this year. One thing I stress is that, while differences are part of married life, how you face them will make all the difference.
And it is relatively easy to describe the best responsive position. It cannot be an “either-or” situation, me versus you. It has to be me and you together versus the problem.
That’s the problem in a nutshell. As we are learning in this unique season, some challenges are so important they push our differences to the margins and rally us to work together. And when that happens, we’re reminded of how good and pleasant it is for people to see themselves as brothers and sisters, and dwell together in unity, despite our differences.
So here are some directions for us all, but particularly for those who are in positions of leadership. Resist the urge to let fly with demeaning speech and choose rather to say what is going to help, to build up rather than tear down. Don’t let bitterness remain in your heart, since it is actually an acid that eats its container. Clean out your inner cupboards of all the anger and slander and malice, and seek to be kind, even to those with whom you disagree. Above all, deal with the selfishness that masquerades as wisdom in your heart, and seek the best for all, even the opposition. And maybe, just maybe we can continue living out the lessons this pandemic is teaching us.
Wouldn’t it be great if, in all the remembering history will do about 2020, there will be a section extolling how our national soul began to recover what e pluribus unum really means? Out of many, one. Yep. I’m part of the many, and you, neighbor, are the one.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays. Signal Editor Tim Whyte’s column appeared Saturday.