Hope for a Better Tomorrow
By Brad McEwen
It’s a word I’ve only known for a few months, but it seems as though it’s been part of my vocabulary forever, given as many times as I’ve typed or said it in the last 6 incredibly strange weeks. In fact, I don’t even have to rely on autocorrect to get it right for me anymore as it’s now become part of the entire world’s lexicon these days.
And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a bad word.
And not one of the typical “bad words” that are actually kind of fun to use sometimes.
No, coronavirus is not the stuff of jokes or to be used offhandedly to create a little emphasis.
For literally millions across the globe, those words strike only sadness, fear and anger.
To date it’s estimated some two and half million people have been diagnosed with Covid-19with a staggering 166,000-plus having lost their lives to it since the virus was first recognized in December of last year.
In the U.S. alone, more than three quarters of a million people have contracted the virus and we now the lead the world with more than 40,000 lives lost since the outbreak began on our shores in late February.
Even more sobering, our home, tiny little Albany, GA has been one of the hardest hit places in the world with per capita infection and death rates outpacing many entire countries. At last check there were more than 1,100 confirmed cases in Dougherty County and nearly 100 lives lost.
Sobering stuff indeed.
And all tied back to the newest word in my vocabulary.
But while that word has heretofore been an irredeemably “bad” one, over the past couple of days, I’m beginning to feel view it a bit differently. Or at least I’m beginning to feel as though the narrative could change and the impact of that word could not only be lessened, but maybe come to be one of the more important words we’ve ever known.
Those who know me well, understand that by nature I’m an optimist. My mom and dad were that way, and as they say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
No matter the strife or struggle I’ve seen in my life, even when things looked their bleakest (and believe me I’ve faced some pretty bleak times in my nearly 44 years)—I’ve somehow always had a knack of seeing the silver lining, catching a glimpse of the good often hiding behind the grotesque mask of fear, anger and sadness.
But recently coronavirus has seemed to test that very nature.
I know early on I wrote a Beyond the Bank stating my conviction that this too shall pass, but that was in the very early days of closed bank lobbies, delivered groceries and social distancing—when only a handful had succumbed to the onslaught of the virus.
I believed what I wrote, and I still stand by that assertion, but the intervening weeks have worked hard to attack that position.
There’s only so much ugliness and demoralization one can witness before it infects their very fiber.
But then, much like my mother commenting five weeks ago on the healing power of the Rushton children’s laughter down the street, I saw a quote from embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that not only pulled me out of my stupor and reaffirmed my earlier belief that we would get through these trying times, but bolstered my hope that our present situation could ultimately be one of the most important and powerful in human history.
In a tweet he issued last weekend, Cuomo very plainly stated what his state—the epicenter of the outbreak in our country—has been going through and what he hopes will be the final epitaph of the coronavirus scourge.
“We are going through hell,” he tweeted, before continuing, “When this is all over, I want people to say, we went through hell, but we learned lessons and we built a better society because of it.”
A simple statement to be sure, but a profound one as well.
“We built a better society.”
Go ahead, say it out loud. It feels pretty good.
I too hope and pray, every day, that as we traverse the uncertain and shaky ground of a world held hostage by an unseen enemy we still don’t fully understand, we take time to reflect on how times like these give us opportunities, give us chances, to be who we’re truly made to be. To be better than we are today.
Coronavirus, despite all the sadness and strife it has brought us, has also brought us face to face with ourselves—who we are as people and who we truly aspire to be.
Those who claim to be leaders are now given a chance to truly lead, to inspire others toward a course of action for the betterment of all. Those with means are now given an opportunity to put those means into action to hopefully create a better world.
Our public servants—teachers, doctors, nurses, police, firemen and more—now have an opportunity to do what they were made for and be great at it. And with the attention of the world on their every action, we all get to see their heroism up close and personal.
And for those who might be considered “ordinary” citizens as well—store clerks, landscapers, dry cleaning attendants, bank tellers, the list goes on—Coronavirus is a chance for them to shine as well, to remind us that every one of us is as vital as all the rest.
For me, a Christian, I’m now presented with the reality of my faith. Do I truly trust and believe that I’ve been saved and will that knowledge spur me to set my fears aside and do what my Lord asks and give of myself—regardless of the lack of personal reward that might come from it. Am I willing to put aside my own wants and desires and use what I have for others?
Do I have the courage to stand up for what I believe in and begin demanding that we create a world in which access to food and health care for all humans (regardless of our differences) is a perceived as a necessity and a true measure of the greatness of our species instead of just a political hot potato?
Will I be willing to sacrifice my own (perceived) long-term stability and that of my children to do what I believe is right for all of my brothers and sisters?
Tough questions no doubt, and ones I’ve been grappling with for weeks, but also ones I hope I can ultimately answer in the affirmative.
For believers like me, we fully understand our own imperfections. Christians don’t hesitate to point out their fallibility and are quick to remind others there was only one perfect man that ever walked the Earth. We are well aware of our own shortcomings.
But for me, the true measure of a practicing Christian is whether we allow that fact to become a crutch for avoiding the hard decisions and actions, or if we instead use that fact as a reminder that we can never let our guard down and can’t give up trying to do the right thing—even if it hurts in the short term. We know our reward.
And it’s not just Christians. As a student of Religion during my time at UGA I know full well, he deep inner pull of humanity demands that nearly all faiths adopt a mantra of service toward our fellows. So no matter the house of worship or the God on the mantle, our present circumstance offers an opportunity for us all—to prove to ourselves that we truly are one species, and one that desperately needs each other to survive.
I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if this virus will be the end of us of the beginning of the next phase of our evolution, where we truly begin to create the world great poets, thinkers, writers and even politicians have long dreamt of realizing.
It’s hard to remain positive about our future course as political protests erupt around our country even as thousands lay sick and dying in makeshift hospital wards, or sadly alone in their homes, but the truth is, the true nature of the human spirit is alive and well all around us.
Just a quick glimpse on social media or a glance at an online newsfeed will reveal what I’ve know to the be the truth for some time—when faced with the hardest of times a great many of us will gladly put aside our differences, racial, political, socio-economical and come to the aid of our fellows. Because while certain affiliations tend to create divides even in the best of times, those things are nearly universally set aside when we come face to face with tragedy and strife.
Much like the storms that have ravaged our community over the past three years, it didn’t really matter that your neighbor was Muslim or Republican or white or brown or lived an alternative lifestyle. They were our neighbors—the folks sitting in the next pew on Sunday, the young guys who wait on us when we went out to eat, the smiling young lady that hands me my clean dry cleaning a few days a week because I can’t iron, the rookie police officer gamely heading out to make the world a better place.
They were the teachers of our children, the folks that clean our offices in the dead of night, the elderly woman who pays your kids a few bucks to pick up sticks in her yard, the local official tasked with maintaining the order and solvency of our city and county. They were you and me.
And when pressed under the great weigh of disaster they were the ones who joined us in roaming the streets with chainsaws and rakes, bagged lunches and simple human kindness.
Despite pockets of our state, region and country begin to slowly ease some of the restrictions adopted to quell the spread of the virus, I personally think we’ve still got a long way to go before this crisis is relegated to the pages of history.
And while that thought gives me great concern, I believe it also gives us opportunity.
It allows Harry Day and Kayla Day more opportunity to continue their grassroots fundraiser to raise funds to feed hospital and other frontline workers. It will give Becca Miller additional chances to continue the fundraiser she’s organized for the Phoebe Foundation, or retired nurse Vicki Burnham and countless other unsung heroes more chances to sew homemade masks for frontline workers as global supply chains sag under the pressure of a worldwide pandemic.
It will give the guys at Pretoria Fields more opportunity to provide sanitizer to those in the community who are struggling to procure it from outside. The continued battle against Covid-19 will bring with it a great many difficult circumstances, no doubt.
But it will once again give folks like me a chance to find the same courage APD Corporal Dramoski Franklin summons every day when he heads out in his patrol car to keep his community safe, or the resolve of Michael Fowler to wade through tragedy on an almost hourly basis and still serve as a beacon of caring and hope for the rest of us.
The list of individuals and groups banding together and working to support each other and the rest of us is a long one. So long in fact, it’s nearly impossible to even recognize of all the good things happening around us every day.
But more importantly, I firmly believe that list completely dwarfs the footnotes of those who have chosen to attack and divide.
It’s because of that—because of folks like Fatima, Brittany, Kershanda and the other Instacart shoppers dutifully delivering sustenance to those at risk who can’t get out, or the incredible nurses and doctors who took care of my friend Tiffany Pafford as she went from a mild fever, to Phoebe ICU and ventilator, then thankfully back home to her family when the worst was over—that I believe we have one of mankind’s greatest chances to build that society Gov. Cuomo hinted at in his Tweet.
If we continue to band together and trade love and support for anonymous social media barbs, that can be a reality.
And maybe one day my grandchildren will be struck by peace when the read the word coronavirus.
Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - firstname.lastname@example.org - @BradGMcEwen