Just Because We Can…

Is it true? That just because you can, doesn’t mean you should? I’ll be honest, I’ve made that statement more times than I can count on one hand over the years, but I’m not certain it’s ever meant as much or cut as deeply as it seems to now. I can go out to western Kansas to have Thanksgiving with my family. I mean I have a truck now, with four-wheel drive, weather-tek floor protectors, and a cover over the bed so I could even take more luggage than I might normally think about taking and it would still be protected from the weather. Sure my parents are in the mid-80ish (sorry moom and dude) decade of living, but I would probably mostly leave my mask on, maybe except when I would be eating and they would be eating. But maybe we could collectively hold our breaths while the eating was taking place. I could easily drive out there. But just because I can, does it mean I should?

There’s this weird map you can pull up that gives the percentage that in a group of a particular number in a particular county the likelihood that some have the virus, knowingly or unknowingly. It’s called an event planning tool put out by the Georgia Institute of Technology in partnership with several other science and academic organizations. I’ve noticed a couple of responses to information like this. One I call, “Data? Data? We don’t need no stinking data” – a gloss of a quote from a movie I’m not recommending but I bet a lot of you of a certain age have seen, “Blazing Saddles” who actually took it from another more serious movie in 1948, called the “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” which I have not seen. It’s a thought process that ranges from a belief that it may be happening to everyone else but it will never happen to me; and/or I totally understand the data, but the value of gathering with people I love outweighs the possible danger.

The second response is a different quote I’ve seen on FB: “We miss gathering for Thanksgiving this year so that no one is missing when we gather for Thanksgiving next year.” The thought being that we sacrifice some of our happiness and usual traditions this year for the sake of the longer vision and possibility of gathering without the same risk to people’s health next year.

Is one right and the other wrong? Of course! And which one is which? We all know the answer to that, it’s whichever opinion you have about it. We are as different as human beings can get in perspective about situations that seem to divide us. I wonder what it would be like if it wasn’t extreme either/or. I wonder what it would be like if each of us were willing to look at the possibility of compromise. I’m hoping there is a warmish day in Kansas sometime in the next month where I can get away and meet my parents in Salina at a park. We did that a couple of months ago, and while it isn’t preferable and it’s certainly not like spending a couple of days together for Thanksgiving, this year may be more about quality than quantity. We won’t have turkey and dressing, but a DQ blizzard may become a new tradition?

Why would I think there’s a great enough risk that I will choose not to go home for Thanksgiving and spend at least an afternoon? Part of the wonder and the challenge of my job right now are weddings and funerals – you might have noticed in the news those two events are often where spread is most likely to occur. ALL of the gatherings I’ve been honored to officiate, and they have been many since the first of October, the families and people have been most respectful of masks and distancing and I have not felt highly at risk, but . . . what I don’t know might in fact hurt others. Getting tested and then quarantining until I would leave is not possible the way I understand my calling, nor will I put myself at unforced risk of not being able to lead during Advent and Christmas, by putting myself in proximity to others driving across the state of Kansas and stopping every now and again. Hear me clearly, there is nothing heroic in that and it’s certainly not the only legitimate choice, it’s simply my choice from how I understand myself and my faith.

Just because we can, does it mean we should? Each person has to answer that for themselves and at what level. What some decide are well-calculated risks worthy of taking others will decide are not. What I do think unifies all our decisions, not uniformity but unifying, is putting care for others equal to and maybe even greater than our desire for ourselves and our own needs. That’s a tough one, especially in a world where the only thing wrong with fast food is that it isn’t fast enough. We tend to want what we want when we want it regardless of who may be in the way. I hope we can rein that back a bit and think about what’s best for everyone. 250,000 deaths out of 330,000,000 people is not a big deal, unless you or your family is part of that 250,000 I guess.

I think Jesus could have called fire down from the heavens to consume his enemies, and he didn’t. I think he could have ignored Zacchaeus, the bent-over woman, and the Gerasene demoniac, but he didn’t. I think he could have fired Peter for insubordination, James and John for trying to steal his thunder, John the Baptist for questioning his identity, and Mary and Martha for doubting his concern for them and their brother Lazarus, but he didn’t.

A vaccine or multiple vaccines are coming, I believe that, and they’re not here yet and may not be for the general population until mid-year 2021. We make our own decisions. We can throw caution to the wind and know that whoever survives til the vaccine was the fittest regardless of taking any precautions. We can do that, but should we? Blessings for your decisions, and for mine.