Fearing The Unknown

Tom Wright (1)

Santa Fe

I have long known the anticipation of an impending event is one of the greatest motivators in the world. To the Christian, it may be the Second Coming of Christ or a deathbed conversion. To the soldier on the battlefield, it may be anticipating the coming attack that makes them dig that foxhole in record time. But fear does not build faith, it only motivates us toward it, which may come in the form of training and preparedness.

Dark places and dark times can be scary, if you don’t have a light. Today, the world faces an unknown and many are scared. COVID -19 is indeed novel in that it is new and we know little about it and it has motivated us into action. Extreme measures are being taken worldwide to curtail the spread. Scientist are working overtime to find ways of prevention and politicians and public servants are working to make us safe and assure the supply chain is adequate, but collectively, they can’t prevent the spread. That is up to us and our responsible actions.

We, the public have a choice to panic or pray and prepare. Most of us will survive this epidemic and a few will die from it, but all of us will be hurt in one way or another, for sure financially and some psychologically. Like it or not, today is the first day of the rest of our life and we must recognize the future is always an unknown, except perhaps to the real prophets and their followers.

Some of us are preparing by stocking toilet paper and food. I have a friend who is buying seeds for a vegetable garden. Maybe someone will invent toilet paper seeds. The Boy Scout motto comes to mind – “Be prepared,” but the scout oath goes a little further and calls the scout to honor and duty to God and country, keeping the law, helping others at all times, remaining fit, mentally awake and morally strong. Not bad advice for all of us.

I have met some good scouts in the last few days. They are the people in the service industry who stock the shelves at night and check us (the coughing, sneezing public) out by day. They are the truckers and delivery folks that keep the goods rolling, those that prepare our food, maintain municipal services, and serve us medically. We may ignore the entire bandwidth of what public service means and just who is a public servant. In times like this, they are our heroes, but we can all be heroes to someone, just by keeping the scout oath.

I watch the news and see hordes of teenagers on Florida beaches.  They are hardly maintaining social distance. Some are even having apocalypse parties; the end may be near or perhaps they feel they are young and too healthy to catch the virus.  In truth, they are teenagers and teens need social contact and often shun rules. So do all humans. Teenagers and adults often distrust authority, especially when we suspect authoritarians know nothing about what they are talking about, like the novel COVID – 19. The unknown again, it scares some and is ignored by others who just don’t want to go there in thought.

There is no question that a prolonged social distance rule and the shutdown of public places like bars and restaurants, even schools will grow old and come at a great economic cost.  Is it all worth it, we ask? We don’t know. Human behavior is now at odds with medical reality. Then we ask, can the government really save us financially from this possible catastrophe? Catastrophe is not a sure thing yet, but it is possible. It is certainly catastrophic for those families who have and will lose loved ones.

Wise old Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes to tell us there is a time and a season for everything. That which has been will be again, that which is done, shall be done again, there is nothing new under the sun. He is of course speaking of human nature and the things we face today.  We have survived wars and pestilence and we shall again survive. We have triumphed in the past and we will triumph over this virus.

He is telling us to be cool, be a good scout and use our collective wisdom to serve in times of need. Wisdom perhaps is increased with age. It also comes with observation and pursuit thereof. The greatest unknown we all face is perhaps death. Our nature is to prolong life and why not? When we finally reach the pearly gates, will we be able to say we were a good scout? The Christian perspective offers forgiveness for our human nature. Maybe we all need to seek the wisdom of God at a time like this.

Tom Wright spent 25 years in disaster relief, having responded to Chernobyl, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, natural disasters and wars. He has been a consultant to the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), a division of USAID.