Friday, August 21, 2020

A Theory I Have

I woke up out of extemely vivid nightmares this morning. Even two cups of coffee haven’t entirely ameliorated the experience.

Putting that aside, I’ve been thinking about the divide in our culture right now in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Some attribute it all to one’s political leanings. Others point to educational levels or intelligence. And yet others say it depends on whether people have had a first-hand, personal experience with the illness. Some will not believe what they have not seen.

Here’s another theory:

The thing that has most profoundly influenced me is my memories of my parents describing life during the Great Depression and World War II. I grew up hearing stories of a national forced to go through difficult times and enduring, pulling together, working for a common good. I didn’t think that I would ever have to live through such a time. But I absolutely believed that caring for others and perservering during hard times were core values, not just my parents’ values, but those of our country.

All around me I see complaints. People want everything from being able to go to restaurants and get hair cuts to a refund of their tax dollars if their children can’t matriculate inside of a school building. They chafe at restrictions which are in place to prevent the spread of illness. At every turn they use their discontent as an opportunity to place blame on those who are tasked with keeping people safe.

At the same time there are other people giving their time and money to support community members who are in desperate need due to COVID-19. Columbia/HoCo is blessed with a variety of initiatives that are doing amazingly good work. And there are people who are still committed to observe public health guidelines even while many around them are tired of making the effort.

I wonder if any of them had parents like mine. I wonder if the experience of  the Depression and WWII lives on in other homes and families. Even though we are living through something completely alien to our life experiences, some people instinctively seem to know what to do. They dedicate their heads, their hearts, and their bodies to bringing goodness into a world beset by enormous pain.

Wherever that comes from, we need more of it. And we need to teach our children, right now this minute, how much we value pulling together and caring for others. We need to give them good examples of how working for the common good is essential to the American experience. Now is the time for planting seeds. We may not know how they will be harvested. My parents surely did not know.

But one day in the future our children may need to reach inside themselves to find a strength and a sense of direction to face unexpected challenges. Will they be ready?

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