The Common Good

The character of the American public has been on display for the world to see during this pandemic. Most Americans have taken seriously the warnings from heath experts and stayed home. They have observed social distancing, and worn masks when visiting public places.

There is no coercive force making us do these things. There are no armies in the streets. Companies have shut down. Workers have stayed home and large scale events have been canceled. Why? Because most of us are concerned about others as well as being concerned for ourselves.

Most of us realize that our lives will never be the same again. Whatever the new normal turns out to be, it won’t be the old normal. We have discovered new ways of doing things. Some have developed new skills. Others have put their creative talents to work. Others have taken chances that they would never have taken. No one would deny that the pandemic is a major challenge; however, we will emerge wiser, stronger and better than before.

Of course, as always, there are nay sayers. There are those who think it is all a hoax. They doubt science. They doubt the experts and they doubt the reports from the legitimate news outlets, but their numbers are small compared to the vast majority who are helping to turn the tide on the pandemic.

We may fight loudly and fiercely about politics but when the welfare of our countrymen is at risk, we pull together. We unite for the common good. There will be plenty of time for fighting after we conquer the coronavirus.

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A Different Easter to Celebrate During Coronavirus War – ethicsdaily.com

It was a different Easter.

Gone were the new outfits. Gone were the in-person Easter egg hunts. Gone were the gatherings together for worship.

Our Sunday School class met by conference call. We watched the worship service on computers, iPhones and iPads. We were together but separate.

Gone were the big Easter family dinners. One friend and I – that was it. My sister in North Carolina laments it was the smallest Easter dinner she had ever cooked, but we were good soldiers in the coronavirus war.

We talked on our telephones, as has become our custom. We accounted for every family member – so far so good. We talked about the sunrise services of our youth when our dad was in charge of the arrangements.

Michael, my son, called to tell me about the new version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” now showing on NBC.

I thought back to when I accompanied him and his young friend to see the road show version and how I worried about whether or not I was doing the right thing to take them.

My doubts lifted a few days later when I overheard Michael and the same friend discussing in serious tones whether or not Judas had a choice. And to my utter astonishment, discussing whether or not Judas could be saved.

Fourteen-year-old boys trying to solve a mystery that religious scholars have struggled with for two centuries. Yes, I was right to take them to see the show.

I settled in to watch the television version, trying to compare it to the original. It is a beautiful/horrible story or a horrible/beautiful story depending on your point of view.

I was forced to realize the problems of the last week are nothing in comparison to the last week Jesus endured before His crucifixion. Here it was again unfolding on the screen in front of me.

The hundreds of times I have heard the story, read the story, seen the story and told the story do not matter. Time does not soften its impact.

It grabs you and does not turn you lose even though you know the ending, even though you have experienced the ending. You are horrified all over again.

What a story! What an ending! What a new beginning!

Easter is beautiful where I live. The flowers and trees are dressed in such splendor that no store-bought outfit could even come close to competing.

Spring is here. New life is here. Coronavirus or no, a new day is dawning. Easter brings us new hope for all the days ahead.

The telephone rings. A friend is bringing me an Easter basket and a freshly made quiche. I meet her at her car and maintain six feet of distance between us.

She is a devout Christian out spreading joy wherever she can. I’m moved by her thoughtfulness.

It’s late, but it’s Easter. It’s time for me to call my daughter in Tennessee. They are in a different time zone.

“Hello, honey. Happy Easter.”

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When Your Life Loses Its Luster, Become a Child Again – ethicsdaily.com

What a message he spread for all to see. “I am happy and well cared for. The world is a beautiful and exciting place. I know everything is OK. I’m loved. See, here’s my rainbow.”

Robert is too young to have been taught the religious symbolism of the rainbow. He hasn’t studied the archetypes of Carl Jung, and yet his joyful creation is that of a rainbow.

This 2-year-old has it over the rest of us. His world is pure joy.

He cries when he falls. He laughs at whatever is funny and then he lets it go. He lets it go and then he is off on his next adventure. He is excited about everything. His walk around our block is awe-inspiring.

Robert’s world is pure joy. He has not studied at the foot of Richard Rohr to learn to be in the moment. He is in the moment – the here and now.

I would like to take a class with Robert, but I am too uptight to let loose and experience pure awe.

What if someone sees me drawing a rainbow in her or his driveway? She or he would call the nearest assisted living facility.

What if I stopped to marvel at a pebble or jumped for pure joy into a mud puddle? What if I giggled and ran after every neighborhood squirrel? What if I believed everything you said because you are all grown-up?

Robert doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know what color I am or what country I came from. He doesn’t know if I am a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew. I may be an atheist. He doesn’t know whether I am gay or straight.

Robert doesn’t know and he doesn’t care, but he gave me a present. He drew a rainbow for all my neighbors and me.

This is what Jesus said in my translation. “Look at Robert. Unless you have the faith that Robert has, you can never share my world of splendor and awe. You can never know peace. You will never be able to live in a state of pure joy.”

I can remember when the world was an exciting place. I can remember being overcome with awe. I remember getting up early to watch the sun peek over the horizon of the ocean.

I remember joy, but that was before I became jaded, suspicious, cautious, skeptical and wise. That was before I grew up and lost sight of what is important. That was before I let the world take it away.

I want to be Robert again. I want to feel so overwhelmingly joyful I give you a present without knowing or caring who you are.

I want to be Robert and accept you the way you are. I want to live in the moment and let it go when it has gone.

Thank you, Robert.

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Influence others like Eleanor Roosevelt – Rev. Margaret Marcuson

Margaret Marcuson

March 18, 2020 – The Christian Citizen

What does an American First Lady who died in 1962 have to do with leadership in 2020? She was never elected to public office. Yet she was the most well-known woman in America for years. She was both loved and vilified. Eleanor Roosevelt faced challenges and shows us today ways to step up to leadership in anxious and difficult times.

She is one of my heroes. She survived a difficult childhood, a challenging marriage to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the many restrictions on what women could and couldn’t do during her lifetime. She was cripplingly shy, yet became the most well-known woman in America. She was a visible First Lady from 1933-1945. During and after that time she spoke publicly, wrote a column and books, and played a key role in the first U.S. delegation to the United Nations (1945-1952). Eleanor Roosevelt’s story is compelling. And her own words and example are inspirational and challenging.

Here are three ways that we can lead as she did, with her own words to reinforce them.

  1. Face up to difficult tasks. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”[i]

Leaders must speak and act in ways that are frightening and difficult. It may be standing up to a bullying staff person or church member or making a public statement about a controversial issue. Sometimes it’s just getting out of bed and going to work when you are discouraged and exhausted. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

  1. Immunize yourself to criticism. No doubt the pace of vicious criticism has accelerated in our day. But Eleanor Roosevelt faced her share of it, both before and after her husband’s death. Many people thought she was too bold (perhaps including her own husband). They tried to put her in her place. In this regard, she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”[ii]

To lead is to invite criticism, condescension and worse. It requires a strong sense of self to handle the barrage that can come your way when you lead, and to hold on to your clarity about who you are and what you are called to do.

  1. Act according to your principles. “In political life I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed, and had done the best you could.”[iii] She also said, “If silence seems to give approval, then remaining silent is cowardly.”[iv]

Here’s one example: The African American singer Marian Anderson was refused the right to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned in protest. She worked behind the scenes to see that a massive outdoor concert took place instead.[v]

In politics, at church, in our wider world, there are no guaranteed outcomes. Be clear about your principles and assess your actions in their light (sometimes with the help of others). Then do what you can and let go of the rest.

The Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

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