Are We In This Together?

In these days of dreadful news regarding the severe illness and death caused by COVID-19 and the fear this brings plus dealing with the effects of isolation and economic shutdown we can feel quite overwhelmed. Public service ads have celebrities trying to encourage us by saying, “Hang in there. We can do this. We are all in this together.” But, are we really all in this together?

I give credit to a former Walker High School classmate and a Facebook post he shared that helped me with this question. In it an important distinction was made. Yes, we are all in the same storm together, the brutal and frightening storm of the Coronavirus. But, we are not all in the same boat. The boats we are in are quite different.

The child who is missing school that lives in a stable and loving home environment is in a boat filled with support and love. They may even be thriving with the extra time with a loving Mom and Dad at home. The child who lives in a home where there is economic want, alcohol and/or drug abuse, mental illness, or physical abuse is in a whole different boat, indeed. The child who thrives on the computer and enjoying the creativity of a highly motivated teacher is in a different boat from a child with minimal skills or outlets for distance learning with teachers not up to the challenge of teaching apart from the classroom.

The adult who cares for aging parents with physical challenges that make them a high risk for the worst effects of COVID-19 sails in a boat of anxiety and fear, aware that exposure could lead to illness and death of those she/he loves. The adult who runs a small business that is shut down sails in a boat of anxious concern for the care of her/his family, the well-being of employees, and the doubt that if the shut-down lingers if the business will even survive.

A blessed one like me, still paid my full salary, sails in a different boat from the person who lives off of investment income who has seen those investments lose value, but both of our boats are better for sailing than the boat of one who has lost almost all income. A blessed one like me who stays at home in a beautiful house with a loving wife, good food to eat and plenty to entertain us sails in a boat quite unlike the boat of a nursing home resident who stays in their room all day with minimal human interaction.

The person who wants and needs to work, but can’t, is in a different boat than the ICU nurse who would love to stay safe at home but can’t, who goes to work a shift seeing the immense suffering this disease brings and who comes home fearful of their own exposure and the exposure they may share with persons they love.

You see, we all are in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat. So, what can we do? We need to listen to one another. We need to share what it is like in our boat and listen without judgment to what it is like in other boats. My greatest frustration has been to hear and read the words of those who believe that the perspective from their boat is the only right one. They expect leaders to make decisions based on what is best for “my boat”. I am dismayed when I read persons who simply will not understand why there is great fear in some over a quick end to social distancing. I am equally dismayed by the self-righteous dismissal of those who express their extreme need to get back to work soon.

Somehow, I believe Jesus would say to us something close to what He said in the Sermon on the Mount. It might go something like this. “Do not judge those sailing in a different boat from your own. Take care of your own boat. Do what is right in your boat. Do all the good you can from your boat. But, do not judge the person in a boat far different from your own.”

How are things in your boat? I want to know. I would like to listen. I promise I will try not to judge. I just want us all to make it through the storm.

–Jack Glasgow