DISCOVERING THE BEST OF US by Rector Chris Girata
DISCOVERING THE BEST OF US was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, April 9, 2021
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
Consideration for others is a broad idea. Few of us live our lives in complete self-centeredness. Most of us generally consider those around us. I think that consideration stays mostly on the surface. We see people, we navigate with people, and we learn to maneuver around people. Perhaps at our best, we even learn to relate to and work with people in truly collaborative ways. However, making life choices with others in mind, especially primarily, is very unlike most of us.
Like many of you, I yearn for a time when the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, but I want to make sure we learn from this.
I confess that when the pandemic began, I was in the camp of trusting people to make good choices. When talk began about possibly wearing face masks in public and shutting down large gatherings, I got defensive. Of course, some people would be more vulnerable to this new virus than others, I thought, but if someone is vulnerable or lives with someone who is vulnerable, then they should take precautions. I was clear in my mind that life is full of risks and this was another of those risks. Why should our entire social structure be flipped? Shouldn’t we be able to make our own choices?
Very quickly, I realized my error: I was living for myself first. What an obvious (and embarrassing) admission, especially for a clergyperson. It’s no secret that my Christian faith called me to live for others, to love others as I love myself, which means that changing patterns of behaviors, even wearing face masks, was the right thing to do. My resistance was short-lived and I quickly championed proper precautions to benefit the most vulnerable among us. As short-lived as my resistance was, the learning has stayed with me.
From the very start of this pandemic, we have been challenged to live for one another in ways that were very new for so many. For decades, even generations, we haven’t been called upon to make individual sacrifices for the good of the whole. Sure, there have been hard times shared by most, but going through hard times is radically different than changing whole patterns of behaviors. Shared struggles are different than feeling as if one’s freedom of choice has been taken away.
For decades, even generations, we haven’t been called upon to make individual sacrifices for the good of the whole.
Freedom of choice is one of those ideas that many believe is fundamentally American. The idea of freedom, the ability to choose our own destiny is particularly strong in our community. We want the ability to make choices and, most of the time, are willing to pay the consequences if it means we might also reap the benefits. Yet this pandemic has forces many of us to lean into what I believe is an even more important fundamental truth: We are in this together. We share the common hope and vision that the world can be better, that we can lift one another up, that we are a city on a hill that cannot be hid.
We have all been called to live in ways that we could not have imagined 15 months ago, and yet, perhaps this pandemic experience has made us better. We may disagree on specifics, but in general, I hope we can believe that the best of us is choosing to raise up the least of us. When we do that, we become who we were created to be.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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