How many times do we experience something in our lives and we cannot believe what just happened? Maybe it was a near accident, maybe it was a health issue, maybe it was a work achievement. Afterwards, we just walk away and marvel at the outcome.
Maybe we are in the midst of another amazing experience. I know that the coronavirus has forced our daily lives to come grinding to a halt, wait a bit, and now we are trying to restart. And that restarting process is almost more frightening than the shutdown has been.
None of us can predict what the future will look like, but one thing for sure it is will never be the same. And I am not sure, but I am betting we have learned valuable lessons and should not even consider returning to life as usual.
As an observer, I am witnessing major lifestyle changes that I believe demonstrate a hunger for healthier balances in our priorities. In my neighborhood, I watch families out walking together. Not just one family, but a variety of families, some walking through the neighborhood just to add more steps in their walk. I see pets with their owners that I never recognized before.
Having been an at-risk teacher, I knew broken family units and the resulting damage more than I saw family units who supported one another in all types of endeavors. Watching the family units join together for time outdoors without all the fanfare associated with sports is a heart-warming experience.
This pandemic is forcing family units to redefine themselves. The stay-at-home orders have made the decision for many that society seemed to want but battled against due to the cultural expectations of two adults working away from the home while the kids were in school or in a day-care setting.
A spinoff adjustment has been to the work force. Maybe the first evidence of needed/forced change was in education. All the sudden schools closed their doors. With many schools that literally closed down the school year after just three quarters, not the typical four.
This abrupt change not only forced the students to stay home, but it forced schools to rethink how to teach. It placed the onus on the parents to see that their children continued in their studies while the teachers scrambled to find ways to provide instruction away from the classroom.
Education must place the needs of the students before anything else. I will never forget attending an ASCD regional meeting and listening to the head of Iowa’s state education department. Instead of worrying about how to hold teachers and districts accountable to a process or a set of standards, he said they had only one guideline: What is best for the student?
Notice, it is student, not studentS. Education as we know it is education for the masses. If a student could not fit into the norm, then they failed. If they were excelling and failing, they likely were bored with school and needed to accelerate rather than ‘fit into the norm.’
The stay-at-home directive has shifted the methods of education to one-on-one instruction. The Zoom meetings can be refined to individual tutorials or small groups or to a full class. The younger students seem to be adapting well as they sit in front of the camera and talk one-to-one with the teacher. They are learning.
And between the Zoom sessions, the parents are there tutoring the kids. They are providing the encouragement, connecting with the teachers right alongside their children. Many parents are learning their students interests and talents for the first time and discovering ways to enrich their educational experience on their own.
Granted, for many young people, the stay-at-home directive has had the complete opposite. They are forced into a home where abuse, addictions, and hunger exist. For these students, there is no education, there is only fear and danger.
How does our culture handle the pandemic crisis for these at-risk students? These are the students who need the daily sanctuary of school so now is the time to redesign the educational system to meet the critical needs of the at-risk who cannot depend on a family structure to nurture them into adulthood.
Where does a society turn to find new direction?
The pandemic protocols are forcing all institutions to reassess their basic foundational beliefs. The hospitals are rewriting how they treat patients–and they are treating them in solitude without the very critical emotional support of family and friends.
Business are learning that work can be more productive if workers are at home, away from the office. Work weeks are being redefined by work production. Priorities are readjusted to support the families with children in the home.
Hopefully businesses are learning that the almighty dollar is no longer the guiding principle. Now the guiding principle is protecting the human assets of the company. Valuing the employees above the profit margin will lead to a healthier society.
Our society was at-risk when the coronavirus started its race around the world. Our sense of elitism blinded us to the reality and the risks that were stretching across the oceans to reach us. We were so busy finding the easiest way to amass wealth. We were sacrificing the foundational principles that created our culture.
The one constant in my life, and I expect in many lives is my faith. I know that the history of mankind has experienced pandemics before. I know that change is a guarantee. But as I have lived, experienced, and studied history, the one common thread throughout all cultures is faith.
My faith system is based on the principles of Jesus Christ who as the son of man and the son of God walked among the human race demonstrating and teaching how to live in harmony with one another.
One simple rule: Love on another as we want to be loved.
Now, in the midst of stay-at-home directives, of social distancing, of economic crisis, this one principle can guide us through the storm. Love one another as you want to be loved.
True, the sudden changes in our society even affect the way we do church. We cannot open the sanctuaries to host a worship service in the same manner we were accustomed to doing. We cannot sing our hymns together; now we must don a mask. We cannot pass the communion cup or break off a piece from the main loaf of bread. We cannot find our favorite seat next a dear friend.
What the church can do is to teach, to worship, to serve one another in any way that it can so all may know Jesus. We can give whatever we can to assure that others have the basic necessities in life–food, clothing and shelter. We can reach out to one another through phone calls, hand-written notes, texts, emails, or any other viral means of communication.
We do not know what tomorrow will look like, but I am confident that with faith in God and in living the life Jesus modeled for us, we will discover that life does not have to be what always has been. We will find that being the church is doing all the good we can in any way we can for whomever we can, whenever we can.
Let’s keep the focus on the positives this pandemic can provide. Let’s follow the recommendations of the scientists, the specialists, and the doctors. Let’s allow families to be families first. Let’s redesign our world so put God first, then we put loving one another like we want to be loved.
Schools will continue, but education will be different.
Businesses will continue, but the design and the workforce will be different.
Government will remember that it is for the people and by the people.
And churches will be an active force meeting the needs of one another through one principle: Love one another as you want to be loved.
Let’s leave the past in the past and surge forward to a new and better world.