NOT GOING BACK TO NORMAL by Rector Chris Girata
NOT GOING BACK TO NORMAL was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, May 8, 2020
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
The desire to go back to the past is often an expression of fear. We naturally fear what we do not know, and a different way of living in the future is, by definition, an unknown. If I were to consider the future simply as a void where any and all possibilities are equally probable, I’d be scared, too. However, I don’t think anything is possible. Instead, I think, or perhaps hope, that we can improve upon the past for the good of everyone.
I’ve heard many people say they want life to go back to normal, but I’m pretty sure we’re not going back to normal.
Our previous normal was not good enough for me. If you like the way things were before our world was shaken by this virus, then I submit to you, with as much gentleness and grace as I can muster, that your desire to return to the old normal is born out of very real privilege. And I recognize that it is sometimes dangerous to use the word privilege. However, if you were deeply satisfied with the status quo of just a few short months ago, comfortable with almost everyone in your life, then I believe you were, and perhaps still are, extremely privileged.
Unfortunately, privilege has been politicized, even weaponized, by some, leaving it bearing so much more weight than it should. For me, I’m using this word in its strictest sense: having or enjoying one or more benefits or advantages. Perhaps you took many of those privileges for granted. Did you like your job? Could you pay your bills? Did you live in a stable home? Were you treated well while shopping? Did people value your opinion? If you answered "yes" to those questions, I would say that you were, in the technical sense, privileged. Most Americans could not say yes to even those basic ideas.
Before you react defensively to my suggestion of privilege, let me ask a simple, human question: Should everyone have the opportunity to answer “yes” to the majority of the questions I ask? If you think they should, then perhaps we can agree that the normal many people seek is not the normal with which we should be satisfied.
... perhaps we can agree that the normal many people seek is not the normal with which we should be satisfied.
Moving forward, we will all be asked to make changes to the way we used to live. Perhaps those asks will be simple and episodic, like wearing a face mask while shopping for groceries. Perhaps those asks will be most significant, such as supporting measures to improve public schools. I’m pretty certain those asks will come regularly, and we may find ourselves feeling frustrated with being asked to change. However, I have one simple ask of you: Would you be willing to take a moment and consider whether you can change in order to help someone else?
The bottom line about the next few weeks, months and years is that we will all be asked to shift out of our comfort zones. We will all be asked to support new behaviors that might feel like an inconvenience. Yet if we are willing, we might find that with each ask, we have the opportunity to change a small aspect of our privileged lives in order to make a significant, positive impact in the lives of our neighbors. Small acts can make big ripples. If those big ripples help a lot of people, accepting those small changes might just be worthwhile.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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