Today, many of us find ourselves afraid and lost. We are in some ways, like the disciples in a boat that were caught off guard by an unexpected and turbulent storm (Mark 4:35-41). Life will deal us storms, seemingly out of nowhere and when we least expect them. They are not always little storms that simply take the wind out of us, but they can be the ones that hit us to our core. The ones that we can’t overcome in a day, or a week, or sometimes longer. When society encounters these larger storms, we must realize that we are all in the same boat, fragile and disoriented. We must come together to row in unison and comfort each other.
A virus that knows no ethnic, religious, or geographic boundaries is reminding us of our solidarity as humans. We sometimes speak of people as members of various “races,” but this is not actually true. We have various ethnicities, but we are all members of one race—humanity. Every person on our planet was created by the same Creator (Genesis 1:27) and is loved unconditionally by the same Savior (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).
As communities, nations and even the world, we have previously come together in the aftermath of disasters and challenges. We see time and time again that when tragedy strikes, people care about one another. We are always ready to answer the call, do whatever needs to be done, such that we come out the other side more resilient than before. These events have a way of making a community, a nation, and even our world – stronger.
We respond in full force whether that event is a mile-wide tornado that in just six minutes, ripped a 6-mile-long path through the center of Tuscaloosa, AL destroying over 5,300 homes, leaving 53 dead, 1,200 injured, 7000 people homeless and thousands without a job; or it is a hurricane hitting Houston (Harvey), New Orleans (Katrina), New York/New Jersey (Sandy); or after the Boston Marathon bombing. There is no finer example of us, as a Nation, coming together than in the aftermath of September 11th.
As a world we have come together in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami of Southeast Asia that killed over 280,000 people across 14 nations; in the Haiti earthquake of 2010 that left millions displaced from their homes and about a quarter of million dead; and when 38 jetliners bound for the United States on September 11th were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada and the small island town met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.
A business colleague who was born and raised in the Middle East, was explaining that he grew up with crisis all around him daily. As a result, he is proficient on the right behavior in these times. However, he noted that the west, especially the US, although awesome at handling a crisis post-event, is extremely weak at recognizing and acting within the midst of one or preventing one.
At the cusp of this pandemic becoming critical and just prior to where staying home was the prudent decision, I spoke at a career development function in front of my alma mater’s football team. I touched on brotherhood and fraternity within a team. There is a bonding that occurs in football because of their shared vulnerability and sacrifice in preparation and playing the game. I stressed the importance of these deeper relationships as opposed to the current social media ‘network’ where connections are a mile wide and an inch deep. These college age young adults were raised in a world where Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram connect us with thousands of people. I have business colleagues that take pride in their vast number of connections. To some degree it reminds me of high school where one competed as to how many (and who) came to their party. One can’t have that many significant relationships. I would prefer fewer more meaningful connections with a level of authenticity. Connections that can be leveraged when we have an urgency to come together and weather a storm.
I have witnessed brotherhoods coming together in times of need. The high school football program where I coached had to deal with three in-season deaths within a five-year period. Three times people involved with the team passed away and young men had to unite in trying circumstance amid their normal football and high school routine. Each time these young men found the strength in teammates, in brotherhood, to carry on and compete – with excellence – on the field. I also observed the brotherhood of soldiers at the funeral of my cousin’s son. They traveled from all over the country, coming to a small out of way little town in south central PA during a winter weather advisory. Their love for one another through their mutual vulnerability and sacrifice created their commitment to each other.
Although we are quarantined and self-isolating, Vivian Greene said it best, “Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Today, with most everyone being confined to their homes and no travel allowed, we accomplished a substitute event to the family ritual of Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. Using a video call, 15 of us calling in from 6 states – cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, and others came together and connected. It was such a hit, that the following week we played Scattergories across multiple states. We are likely to continue doing these calls, even after this crisis passes.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus was in the boat and just as cold and wet from the storm as the disciples were. Jesus is in the boat with us today. When our storms quiet down, we remember the strength of Jesus who sits with us, whose very presence calms storms. Peace is not freedom from the storm, but calmness within the storm.
This storm is exposing our vulnerabilities. Now is the time, amidst this storm, for us to dig deep, find courage and strength. Now is the time, during this storm, to move forward- without attachment to the outcome for us individually. Now is the time for a powerful demonstration of solidarity and coming together amidst what is happening around us, all of us. Let’s pray for Jesus to calm this storm and that when it is over, our solidarity will continue.