I was home these past two weeks, first to care for my eldest son Noah, who tested positive for Covid, and also to monitor the learning of his three younger brothers, who had to be quarantined.
Then, two days in, I got sick, and the next night, my wife Jessie fell ill. So, we spent two weeks sniffling, coughing, medicating, resting, and praying.
My colleagues at Pond Road Middle buoyed our spirits by delivering fresh meals each day this last week, and their kindness and compassion for us has been overwhelmingly grand. Thanks, Pond Fam – you guys/gals are awesome, and I’m lucky to work beside you.
Being ill is scary, and for me, more so as the years go on and my body lets me down. Sometimes, I let my body down too.
There is, however, a sort of healthy humility that gets focused when your frailty is manifest.
I participated in martial arts during my mid to late twenties. It was great fun, hard work, and I am grateful to have spent such great times with excellent teachers, who are also wonderful human beings.
During that time, I earned a broken nose, broken toes, bruised ribs, and more than a few shiners and busted lips. My head was once put through a plaster wall by “Big” Steve Whitaker :)
During one promotion, I decided to show off by performing my breaks without spacers in between the wooden boards and injured my wrist terribly. It has never been the same.
Anyhow, I like the martial arts. Boxing, Wrestling, MMA.
So, the social media algorithms picked up on this, I guess, and occasionally suggest videos with fighting, and some of the videos show real fights.
Yesterday, I scrolled over a video which captured my attention, and then sucker-punched me with sorrow.
Two women viciously assaulted one another in a public space, and the children accompanying the one taking the brunt of the violence helplessly watched their guardian being pulverized. For what seemed an eternity, the people in the video, the bystanders, just watched.
The savagery of the violence was compelling, but what stabbed my heart was those poor children watching their mother or aunt or sibling being injured and humiliated.
I don’t know what led to the altercation, but for the sake of those kids, I desperately wanted someone to intervene, quickly, but it took too long. Every additional blow to the guardian was a blow to those kids.
There was so much pain in that video.
The woman who ‘won’ the fight fought with a brutal ferocity that suggested rage, but also fear. It was violence born of desperation, and it seemed she wanted to kill.
The humiliated one, the traumatized children, and even those paralyzed bystanders were all deeply wounded. The fella who finally intervened had a look of bewildered horror on his face.
We hurt each other, and often, we don’t even know why. The reasons are sometimes buried. We are all carrying pain, and sometimes, through action or passivity, we transmit that hurt to others, often those we love most dearly.
This week I read “The Wizard’s Tide; A Story” by Frederick Buechner. It is a simple and straightforward book about how devastatingly traumatic our actions can be.
Told from the perspective of a young lad whose parents are suffering through the financial struggles of The Depression, you feel every critical remark, untoward action or mean look that passes between them. They were shifting their hurt to one another, but that was not all.
The little boy doesn’t fully understand their tensions, but he is burdened by them. You feel his sadness as you read, and wish his parents, who dearly love him, were more cautious.
The book moved me to repentance. How much injury have I inflicted on my boys by careless angst toward my wife, myself, the world?
I read “A Sacred Journey” by Buechner in August, and much of the fictional tale in “The Wizard’s Tide” is based upon the great writer/pastor/poet’s real childhood suffering.
A wise and mature thinker, the older Mr. Buechner was still sorting through the tangible grief inflicted during his youth.
In the district where I teach, there was a big blowout during a Board of Education meeting this past week and emotional harm was inflicted.
This is happening all over right now, and sometimes those arguments turn violent. I wonder at the gloom and fury that has been unleashed by our shared sufferings these past many months.
We must ‘hold on to the good’ in each other, certainly, but also in ourselves.
We never end an argument.
The lady who “won” the fight on that horrid video I watched didn’t finish anything. Instead, she inflamed so much anger and sorrow that already existed in her own heart, and in those around her.
And now those little children have been wounded, perhaps in a new and abiding manner that will follow them throughout their years. They will be tempted to inflict their shock or unforgiveness or uncertainty on others.
I pray they’ll know healing, and mercy, and most of all, love.
Lord, have mercy!
"Examine all things; hold on to the good."
-Saint Paul the Apostle