• JP

Do we deserve our way of life?

One of my favorite baby stages is when they produce the sound of their first belly laugh. Holding a small human while they’re making such a loud joyful sound, quite frankly, it fills my soul. Some people prefer reveling in the first smile. Endless debates ensue with some arguing that the first smiles are merely gas. But there is no debating laughter.

In the midst of these stay at home orders, I have decided that I want to hear more laughter. My kids are well beyond the baby stage, but I’m still looking for ways to hear them laugh every day. Maybe it is true: “Laughter is the best medicine” (especially when you’re stuck at home).

Laughter is universal, no matter a person’s circumstance. But I’m starting to understand that to properly foster lighter moments in life it often takes an open disposition on my part. In other words, a willingness to let go of trivial worries, ignore unnecessary distractions, and actively allow joy to enter in.

Lately, I haven’t heard much talk about simple pleasures. The only bright spot in the news seems to be when video clips from social media get replayed of people banging pots and blowing whistles rightly honoring essential workers. At shift change, music is played, people are clapping and cheering from their balconies in the cities. Celebrity comedians are sharing humor, produced from home. Famous musicians are sharing free concerts also from their own homes. These are feel good moments that bring tears of gratitude to so many. But I must confess that the coverage of this positivity seems small.

Most of the airwaves are consumed with charged rhetoric, an ever-increasing divide and the politicization of everything under the sun. You’re either in this camp or that one. There is no middle ground. And when it comes to this pandemic, you’re either for a liberal reopening sooner than later, like yesterday… OR you advocate for a conservative approach to a slow reopening. The former cries out even to the extreme of public protesting: “Let’s save our economy and hold on to our way of life”. The latter cry foul begging for people to listen to science. We’ve found our camps. We’re either for saving the economy, or we’re for saving lives.

The two extremes described are certainly not how everyone feels. We are complex human beings with varying emotional make-ups. Our reality is laced with nuance.

I don’t want to add more noise to this already cluttered scene. But I do want to ask a different question:

Do we deserve our way of life? You know… “our way of life” that we had before the world ground to a halt.

In the midst of this global pandemic, people of privilege especially in the West are struggling with a polarizing either/or question.

Do we get to choose either our health or the economy?

To put it bluntly…

Do we remain at home, physically distanced in order to prevent people from dying of COVID-19…

OR …do we go back now to save our economy protecting our way of life?

A majority of people around the globe, quite simply do not have this choice. They can neither imagine “our way of life”, nor can they adequately protect the vulnerable whom they love.

So let’s allow people debate the EITHER/OR question of our time. Some will partake in the banter with a genuine interest in coming up with just solutions. I applaud them. Others will choose to poke political bears, so they can be entertained by the ensuing fights that their divisive rhetoric incites. I beg them to stop.

Without sidestepping the issues raised above, let’s dig a little deeper by asking another question:

In the West, who said that we deserve “our way of life”?

Someone once said sarcastically: “Who died and made you King?”

If we deserve our way of life, then did we also deserve to be born where we were born?

Here’s the reality. I did not choose where I was born. I was born into privilege. I am blessed to be a Canadian. I am lucky to receive financial assistance from a benevolent government during a time of job loss. I’m being paid to stay at home. But I can’t argue in good conscience that I should fight to somehow protect “our way of living” assuming it’s something I deserve.

I don’t deserve it. I just got lucky.

The only difference between myself in a G7 nation, and someone in a developing country is where we were born. These are facts no one controls. If we’re fighting to protect “our way of life”, then we should be fighting so that we can give it away.

Jesus once said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. And whoever is willing to lose his life for me [Jesus] will save it.” (Mark 8:35) Essential workers of all types are risking their lives daily. Are they doing it to protect “our way of life”? Or are they doing it because they are decent human beings who want to save as many lives as possible?

Maybe one of the biggest lessons of COVID-19 is that we need to level the playing field. It has exposed further what so many people have refused to admit. A gigantic chasm of inequality around the world, and inequity even within diverse demographics in the West where we hide behind the myth of “our way of life.”

This time of pause has given us so much more time to think. Some of us have used that time well, and we are asking questions of ourselves and others that we never took time to contemplate before.

How will we be different after this time of pause?

A scary thought for some to contemplate: What if we don’t deserve “our way of life”, and what if we’re never able to return to it?

Will we still find ways to create environments where we actively choose to let joy in?

A simple first step is agreeing to be less selfish and more grateful. I’m going to try to illicit laughter from my kids daily. And at night I pray with them a simple prayer: “Thank you God for food in our bellies, and a roof over our heads.”

Maybe food, shelter, and a little bit of laughter is all anyone actually deserves as a way of life.

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