Frightened sheep

My children are scared. They are scared because for the first time in their lives they do not know whether tomorrow will bring the same measure of safety as the days before. Their minds are trying to wrap around empty shelves at the grocery stores, escalating media attention to COVID-19, rumors of mandatory quarantine, cancelled events, and so on.

So true story, my wife and I get up every weekday at 4AM so we can get CrossFit in before our very busy day starts. I complain every single morning, but on the way home from working out I am so happy I did it. That’s pretty much the only reason I would get up so early. Well, this morning we skipped class and hit several different stores trying to prepare a bit. Not hoard, not give in to panic, simply to make sure we are prepared should a quarantine, self imposed or mandatory, be put in place. It is very disconcerting to see lines wrapped around these big stores and to go in and see the cleared shelves. We were blessed to get just about everything we needed between 3 stores, but still no bottled water. We have yet to find any of that. Thankfully we are on a well so it’s not crucial for us, in fact our thinking has been to grab what we are allowed so that we can bless others. We know everyone is facing obstacles, just as we are, and these obstacles are vastly different from person to person.

Going back to my children being scared. I can understand their fear. It’s not so much about getting the virus, though some of us have severe asthma have have some concerns, it’s more about how people are choosing to behave and the panic this pandemic has brought about. I have these fears as well, but I am not giving the fear power.

This quote is from C.S. Lewis, and while the language is a bit dated, the content of it could have been written yesterday. This is exactly what I have told my kids as we gather each evening to debrief about their day and read and pray together.

“How are we to live in an atomic age [or a coronavirus epidemic]?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

C.S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns

Here in America we are so incredibly blessed that the threat of a virus and the uncertainty that the future brings is causing panic. This is something a lot of the world lives with, in fact for quite a few people in the world it’s not a “chance”, it’s the norm. Men, husbands, fathers, just like me have half as many years to live, and their children live in fear of much worse. Not to downplay this virus at all. It may hit my family and leave us mourning as it already has around the world. I am simply pointing out that myself and my fellow Americans have it very good, indeed we have it more than good, life here is full if luxury, opportunity and security.

Just a though, as we go into stores and see them empty and are shocked, may that remind us that our needs have been consistently met in the past. When we get our hands on the basic needs we seek, we might be thinking of sharing, not hoarding. We do need to hinder the spreading of the virus, so we must quarantine, but when you have had the virus and come out the other side, think about serving those affected. The ones still sick, the ones left mourning, or recovering from job loss, from trauma, or whatever else this season may bring. Right now we have the opportunity to be a single community. My family is a part of my neighborhood, which is a part of my city, my county, my state, my nation, my world. Fear is threatening to turn us on each other and to behave in a way that preserves ourselves. But that never works. Never. We will only truly thrive and grow if we embrace this trial and take care of each other. It’s not just nurses and doctors and emergency workers that are heros in these times of crisis, you and I are all heroes in the making.

The mightiest heroes are servants, so let’s serve each other.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.