Author’s note, the following piece was sent to the Richmond Times-Dispatch for consideration for their Faith and Values column. The piece was published today, May 19, in the Times-Dispatch. This is the original, the editors made a few good tweaks.
On the morning of Sunday, May 10, I went for a run.
Aside from the green foliage and the colors of spring blossoms, it felt like an October morning.
When I left the house, the temperature was 33 degrees. I was dressed for an early winter morning run.
Almost all of the state of Virginia was under a frost or freeze warning.
My wife’s mother reported that Saturday evening in West Hartford, Connecticut looked like a blizzard.
And up on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire on Saturday, the wind chill was minus 22 degrees with wind gusts to 87 mph.
Some New England locations received up to 10 inches of snow.
This is nuts.
My body doesn’t want to go on this run. But, my mind needs it.
Moving slower than a tortoise in a hot desert sun, my resistant legs gradually begin to lift and push me forward.
Along the way, I note the presence of frost on rooftops, car windshields, and sections of lawns.
Birds energetically chatter like stereophonic sound in my ears. They are embracing the new morning better than me.
My wife and I have been zooming with our longtime college friends on Saturday afternoons. We do this once every two weeks. These people mean so much to us.
Saturday afternoon, my college roommate confessed—he misses baseball season.
Some of these spectacular spring days would have been perfect for a baseball game. I’m reminded of a comment from Chicago Cubs legend, Ernie Banks, about such beautiful days, he stated: “Let’s play two.” Meaning, it is such a beautiful day for baseball, lets play two games instead of one.
As I work my way up Westham Parkway, this crazy weather makes me think about farmers. Especially fruit tree farmers who have orchards nestled in nooks and crannies throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I wonder how peach and apple trees will respond to these not normal temperatures? I wonder if I will experience the sweetness of a mountain grown peach this summer or the crisp, crunch of a mountain apple this fall?
Truth be told, we are all wondering.
COVID-19 is at the heart of that wondering, that questioning, that pondering, that searching.
I am a natural born worrier.
And while COVID-19 has me worried, here’s what really, really worries me—ourselves.
Our differences keep widening and dividing.
Those differences are troubling.
Maybe, you have seen the movie Best Of Enemies. The movie is based upon a true story that took place in Durham, North Carolina in 1971. The film is grounded in a book written by Osha Gray Davidson.
Two Durham residents, Ann Atwater, an African American community activist and organizer, and C.P. Ellis, leader of the local Ku Klux Klan are asked to take leadership roles in helping to solve Durham’s racial divide over public education.
At one point in the movie, there is a heated exchange after a community meeting between Atwater and Ellis.
With her Bible in hand, and shaking it in Ellis’s direction, Atwater states to him, “This here does my talking for me.”
Ellis responds, “I have a Bible.”
Then Atwater fires back, “‘Then you ought to know.”
Ellis asks, “Know what?”
And without any hesitation, she replies: “The same God that made you, made me.”
Screenwriter and director for the movie, Robin Bissell, captures the tension of that encounter with his words and the actors on the screen.
That tension is part of our differences, our divide. That tension is as twitchy as a tectonic plate on a fault line deep below the earth’s surface.
“Same God that made you made me” rattles in my brain.
I ask myself how often do I overlook that fact in my interaction with people?
What prevents me from keeping that statement in the forefront of my thoughts each day?
Where am I in the differences between us?
Thankfully, I make it to the top of the hill on Stuart Hall Road.
I look toward our front steps.
A few weeks ago, my wife purchased a small sign. It hangs from one of the railing posts leading up the steps.
The sign is plain and simple, it reads: “Be Kind.”
The first seven words from Ephesians 4:32 state: “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”
In the gap of our differences, and knowing that the same God that made you made me, why is there such a struggle for us to be kind and compassionate to one another?
If we create a vaccine for COVID-19, why can’t we have a vaccine to inject us with kindness and compassion toward each other for forever?
Well, in truth, we are already equipped with that vaccine—our hearts.
What will it take to truly change them?