By now, you've seen just how quickly life can change in a matter of days, moments. It seems like we blinked and the whole world shut down, forcing us to make new decisions about our lives, forcing us to wonder about our well-being, forcing us to think about things we maybe haven't thought about before (with a deeper respect for those for whom the 'new' reality is actually the 'daily' reality).
It's enough to give a person whiplash, to be quite honest. And one of the questions that's stirring around is: How did we get here? How did we get to a place where the entire free world gets shut down at a moment's notice, where our movements and gatherings and daily lives have been forcibly restricted by the powers that be?
Plainly put, the answer is: selfishness.
Plainly put, the answer is: selfishness.
You see, we have shown ourselves over the past few decades to be a people who put ourselves first, who think rarely of others, who live our lives as though we're the only ones they matter to. We think about ourselves first, think about our priorities, think about our needs, think about our desires, think about our abilities and capabilities and the like.
We've been told, and we've believed, that our defining characteristic is just how much we're willing and able to push through. How much we can accomplish on our own without relying on others. How much we can do without asking for help or drawing undue attention to ourselves or seeming weak. We have pushed through sick days, fought through down days, worked ourselves to the bone when we knew what we needed most was rest.
We have shown up at church on Sunday morning, dragging ourselves through the doors, because 'we don't miss church.' We have gone to that event we already had tickets for because, well, we already had the tickets and didn't want them to go to waste. Plus, we've been excited and waiting for this for a long time. We convince ourselves we feel 'fine,' but it's not about whether we feel fine; it's about how many other persons are going to have to convince themselves they feel 'fine' because we chose to expose them to what we have, and it's about how many persons will not be 'fine' if they get what we've got.
We have shown again and again and again and again (and again, for those of you in the back that need to hear this) that we simply don't think about anyone else when we make our plans for the day. We don't think about what our broken lives might do to them, what our illness might pass on to them, what our 'mild' cold could do to their compromised system. I can't tell you the number of times in the past ten years I've come down ill myself from someone who swore themselves blue in the face that it was 'just allergies.' Right. (I know I'm not alone in this.)
Our culture rewards this behavior. That's the mentality that we live by. We're so afraid to miss out on even the smallest moment of our lives that we never stop to think about what our actions mean for someone else, anyone else. Even our response to the shutdown of society shows our selfishness - we're running to stores and grabbing all the toilet paper and cleaning supplies for ourselves, not limiting ourselves to reasonable amounts that would leave some for others. When the schools shut down, parents started thinking of all the activities they were going to plan for their children, all the places they were going to take them to - so we had to shut those places down as well.
As I sit and watch all of this unfold, I can't help but wonder how things would be different if we had shown any inkling in the past twenty, thirty years that we care about each other any more. That we care about anyone other than ourselves. What if we knew how to take care of one another? What if we were thinking about how our actions might impact someone else? What if we loved one another so deeply that we stopped being afraid to miss a day or two of our own lives in order to preserve the life of someone else? In order to give someone else a chance to thrive?
Our heads are spinning, and when you look at the shuttered school buildings, the empty shelves, the scrolling headlines, the latest counts, the saddest part of it all is that we still haven't learned our lesson. We're still thinking about how all of this affects me - not us. We're still talking about its impact on one life, not a community.
And that's why it has to be this way. Because we've shown over and over and over again that we just don't care about each other. At least, not nearly as much as we care about ourselves. So at some point, someone had to step in and say, you've got to. You've got to care about each other. You've got to care for the most vulnerable among you.
And Christians? We should be ashamed of ourselves. Because we're the ones, above all others, who should have been doing this all along.
(More to come on this, and on our Christian response, this week. Stay tuned.)