Amidst the Unrest, One Thing Remains the Same (Part 1)
In the matter of a few weeks, much has changed. Words and phrases such as “shutdown,” “lock-down,” “social distancing,” “pandemic,” and “outbreak,” among others, have become part of the common vernacular. Most of these words and phrases are inherently negative in nature, evoking feelings straight out of a Dean Koontz suspense novel, one in which we are all the lead characters.
But there is also another narrative, which is being written and rewritten for all to read. It is a bestseller—and we are all lead characters in this one, too!
You read this novel on the faces of little children as they “practice” school at home after academic institutions have been closed for days. Their simple laughter and joy remind us (adults) that adulting can be cruel and help keep us grounded in reality. You read it in the smiles of health care workers when they receive an unexpected free lunch, dropped off at the front desk by an unknown business leader, while they are mercilessly working extra shifts to keep the outbreak from spreading. Their tireless effort to keep others healthy, even when they have nearly reached their own breaking points, reminds us to press on, facing the elements as they come with courage, strength, and unity. You read it on the face of the business owner who is unsure about what the future holds, but nevertheless waits and slows down even when it goes against everything in her nature to do so. Her herculean effort to remain calm, to trust, to hope when her whole world seems to be collapsing gives the rest of us hope that we can persist too.
During this time, we face an epidemic of loneliness that has increased 65% in the last decade. The rise in loneliness and relational despair are associated with grim outcomes. Here is how relationship expert Robert Hall described it in in his essay “Straight Talk About Relationships, Community – and Faith,”:
We have invented ghastly new terms like “Deaths of Despair” to chronicle an increase of drug-related deaths of 108 percent, alcohol-related deaths by 69 percent and suicides of 35 percent among 18 to 34 year-olds, between 2007 and 2017. Loneliness, which has the same mortality effect as smoking and twice that of obesity, has jumped 65 percent in the last decade. As smoking declined and healthier eating has become more popular, isolation has stepped in and filled the mortality void. Overall life expectancy declined for the first time since the early 1900s. John Ortberg’s words were never truer, “We would be better to eat Twinkies together than to eat broccoli alone.
And right there, in that last line, is the narrative we are trying to reanimate over and over and over again.
Philosopher Aristotle once said, “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.”
The author of the book of Proverbs expressed something similar in Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
And in Proverbs 27:9, “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”
Other theologians have declared that friendship has always been at the heart of their spiritual journey.
We all know that Twinkies aren’t good for us. We are also learning more and more every day how the coronavirus isn’t good for us either. Yet as John Orberg stated, it would be better to eat unhealthy Twinkies with others than to eat something healthy, such as broccoli, all by our lonesome. The same is true with the coronavirus — it would be better to face the severity of the virus together than to go on a five mile jog companionless. In other words, during these precarious times in which we find ourselves, let’s not forget the bestselling “novel” that has been flying off the shelves for centuries, the one that speaks of solidarity and camaraderie.
Friendship has always been at the heart of our journey, too. Amidst the rubble, one thing that remains the same is friendship. Mutual caring relationships are what is needed most in times of stress — relationships with an overabundance of kindness, generosity, tenderness, big-heartedness, and empathy.
We know this to be true in our own lives.
Someone To Tell It To could not exist as it does without the bonds of friendship that we as the co-founders share. This mission began out of a mutually supportive, vulnerable, and intentional relationship.
We have gone on countless walks together, dreaming and imagining, unburdening our minds and hearts, encouraging and examining our hopes and vision. We have been intentional about being gracious with one another, forgiving of one another, and always committed to being in this together through not simply the joys, but especially the hardest, most uncertain moments. We have weathered cash flow scares, have heard some of the most horrific stories in our listening together, and have done our best to embrace one another’s wounds and fears.
We wouldn’t trade any of it for a different journey, even though on some days, this journey has been harder to navigate than we could have ever imagined. Because through it all, it has brought us immense joy. We’ve not done everything perfectly. But we have done it together. And that makes it all the sweeter when — on so many days — it has been good and all the more forgiving when — on some memorable days — it has been bad.
Right now, we, as members of the human race, are on a journey that is bringing fear, isolation, and horrendous anxiety to the world. But, like faithful friends, we are on this journey together, all of us. Together.
We will see some of the worst of human behavior in the midst of it. We will also see some of the best; the “better angels of our nature,” as Abraham Lincoln so poetically phrased it in regard to the American Civil War.
Together, is how we will make it through. And we will be stronger for it when we do.
Please click here to read Part 2 of this blog post, a story from our second book Someone To Tell It To: Moved With Compassion called “The Cure for Loneliness.”