Yesterday was Independence day in the United States of America, and a mixed-bag of feelings washed over me. While preparing for our move to Kentucky, I had to leave the house three times yesterday, twice to Lowes and once to Walmart. Like many of you, I try to avoid going out, and when I do, I do my best to practice social distancing. I do not always wear a mask (sometimes I do), but I could and maybe I should. In today’s world, there is more information available at our fingertips than ever. Some sources of information claim to be the source of truth and fact – and it could be true, or it could be false. Some information (like this blog) is just an opinion – I don’t claim to know more than you on the subject, it’s just my opinion. This opinion is the sum total of my life-long learning experiences, and I’m trying to do the very best that I can.
When I was a kid I thought all adults were wise. Later, I learned that all adults were not wise. Even later, I learned that all adults were wise, again.
I’ve learned that as I age, my mind adjusts to new information. I make opinions based upon what I’ve learned over the entire course of my life. Things I once thought were certainties are now surely false, but that may change. Even for those of us who aren’t the smartest, we still gain wisdom. I think this is also true for You (dear reader), Lebron James, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Dalai Lama, Joel Osteen and Charles Manson. Notice how I selected a wide arrange of people on the spectrum, although I don’t have much in common with any of these people, except that I am human, much like you – and that I learn things and grow in my own personal brand of wisdom. I don’t personally know anyone who is super wealthy or famous (or infamous), but I do know many people (like you) that are amazing people, and all of us have wisdom.
Some people think COVID is a conspiracy, others think it’s a virus that is spread and that we’re all in danger (sound the alarms!). The people I call my friends come from different backgrounds, some have a little money while others have little. Some of you are Democrats, some are Republicans, and some of you are neither. Almost everyone I know has seen A Christmas Story, and know the line “You’ll shoot your eye out”. Regarding that line specifically, we know that Ralphie, was told by every single adult he knew, including Santa, that he did not need the Red Rider BB Gun because he would shoot his eye out. However, on Christmas morning he ended up getting his prized wish. Shout out to irresponsible parents everywhere. As it turns out, Ralphie did not shoot his eye out, but he did shoot himself, breaking his glasses in the confusion.
You see, it was indeed possible that Ralphie would shoot his eye out (or his brother’s eye or perhaps a neighborhood dog’s eye). That’s possible – every parent in the world can testify to this simple truth. Parents struggle with giving their children age-appropriate things, because we know they most learn to navigate this world as an adult some day. Each of my children have learned at different intervals – some of them I might’ve given a dangerous toy too at a much younger age, others, I wouldn’t give them this same toy until they were much older. Parents want their children to grow and learn, we even want them to have fun, and we want them to be safe.
Sometimes parents make good judgement calls, sometimes we give our child a motorcycle on their third birthday – usually, it all works out just fine.
My faith plays an important role in my life, it sets the boundaries of what I believe in what is right and wrong. I share my faith with my children because they will need God more than they ever needed me. I fail daily in ways that God never will, He will comfort and guide them when I cannot be there. These faith boundaries guide us, and are important to us and our children. While we can never have faith in a political party, brand or movement, we can have faith that God will guide us through it all.
I think our best scientists, leaders, politicians, and activists want what is best, but I also know they too do not know everything. Like you and I, they’re making decisions based on a lifetime of learning and the best information available to them. They may one day look back and regret making a decision to mandate this or that. In fact, I think that’s the expected outcome. That’s why the government moves so slow, it was built that way on purpose – so that we could not, in the heat of some moment (or weeks or months), give or take away a freedom that would forever change the fabric of this great experiment called America.
Yesterday while out and about I saw fear everywhere – people were either giving me judging looks, or just avoiding eye contact altogether. Everyone is giving everyone lots of social distance, which I think is what matters most at the moment. Most people did not speak, I spoke to a few and tried very hard to be friendly. If you know me, this was a task – but I know people are hurting and confused, and we need each other now more than ever. We need to be nice and friendly, we need to be human to one another. If you or I were to die due to COVID, I would hope someone would have something nice to say about us. But even that is in danger – funerals, work, school, businesses – life and death are now postponed until further notice.
Yesterday was Independence Day, a day that is designated to celebrate the freedom we have enjoyed in this country. But I had many mixed feelings because we live in a time where our freedoms are restricted. Not in a small way, but in a large way – we cannot go out and about like we once did. Vacations, cancelled. Family reunions, cancelled. Walmart closes early, like every other store, and restaurant, bowling alley and skating rink (even if those places are open now, I’m not even sure).
There is evidence that what we are doing is not enough to flatten the curve. There is also evidence that we’re doing too much, and that we’re giving away our freedoms in the form of compliance. On Independence Day I was saddened that we’re not being more brave so that we could enjoy more freedom. Friends, I want you to be you, loud and proud. Whether you think it’s a conspiracy or whether you think you have all the data to confirm the worst-case scenario. And I want you to be safe, and to keep my safety in mind. Is it even possible to have both safety and security?
I want to interact with people without fear that you’re judging me for what I’m wearing on my face, who’s political party bumper sticker is on my car, or what the color of my skin is. But here we are, against one another, caught in this terrible act of violence that is judging. If there were a conspiracy, it might be something like “have them all turn on the other and then we can do whatever it is we want to do”. I’m not saying that is really happening, but sometimes it has the feeling of that.
What is really happening is much worse, we’re not being nice to one another anymore.
Many of us care more about shaming or sharing opinions than we do about how a person is feeling or doing. Some of us are really struggling – no, I think most of us are really struggling. It’s hard to be home with the kids all the time, to not be able to do the things we want to do, to be isolated and alone. It’s really hard, even if you think you’re adjusting well (which I think I am), it’s still really hard.
When you go out in public, with our without a mask, I would like it to be your choice. You might shoot your eye out, or you might shoot my eye out, or it might turn out okay in the end. We cannot be certain of the outcome yet because nobody is that smart and correct – we’re all learning, doing the best we can. But, what I implore you to do now more than ever is to be kind to your fellow human. Whether or not they vote Red or Blue or Green, whether they wear a mask or don’t, whether they support the Black Lives Matter movement (or not) – be nice. When I was a kid someone once told me that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile; I still don’t believe that statement. What I do believe is that even if smiling is hard, do it anyways. Wave at your neighbors or have a discussion with them. It’s okay to have and share your opinions. But we all have them, some are right and some are wrong – some are right now and may be wrong later, and some are wrong now and may be right later. None of it will matter when you have your funeral. People will remember you most for how you treated them. Treat people well.