Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Family, Friends and Loved Ones,
We sincerely hope this letter finds you all joyful and living in peace. These months have certainly tested us all, challenging everything we thought to be reality. It is our sincere hope that you are all well, and that you see better things ahead. Always know that you are in our thoughts and prayers throughout each day.
No one knows what the future holds for us, we can only take stock in today. Thankfully, today looks better than yesterday did.
For me, the lessons learned throughout this time of worldwide pestilence, fear and torment are summarized in one word. Trust. Like most people, it is when my reality is shaken, trust weakens. In this case, trust in the systems, information and individuals that we have empowered to protect and serve us in times of trouble.
Going through this fearful time brings back memories of my experiences following brain surgery. Leaving Mayo hospital for rehab was just about the scariest thing of my life. Gone was the fear of dying. Having knocked on death’s door a couple of times in the previous year, the thought of moving forward was more of a comfort than a fear. Instead, the fear that gripped every part of my being was the fear of loss. The loss of my normal life.
Instead of walking out of the hospital, getting in a car and riding to the rehab center. This day saw me going by ambulance from one facility to the next. Not because of convenience, nor some bureaucratic benefit for the hospital and workers. They were transporting me by ambulance because of my inability to walk or use my hands. All throughout that short trip, my thoughts were stuck on my new life as an invalid. Fear had consumed every bit of my existence. Looking back, it is now easy to understand that my fear was rooted in a lack of trust.
Trust is one of those words that stands alone. Like describing a color or a beautiful sunrise, words alone cannot explain what trust is. Isn’t Trust something we just know or feel; our “gut” feeling? Is that gnawing in our gut simply about trust? Explaining words like trust is like trying to describe something green. While there is a myriad of variations, green is green, but we can’t explain it without a comparison to another color or something green. That’s where my angst was, the uncertainty, doubt and lack of trust gnawing in my gut.
My experience with doctors and medical providers has always been pretty good. Sure, there were a few that dropped the ball, but for the most part, it is my belief that we are blessed to be in a country, and living in a time, where our health and well-being are considered most important by those who take care of us. So, it was not a question of trust in the systems or personnel that drove my fear and lack of trust. Instead, it was my lack of trust in myself and my body that filled me with fear. It was only when faced with a vision of what my world could become, that my strength of faith took over and led me to rebuild my trust again.
My fears had given me a clear view of what my world could look like if my legs and arms continued to fail me. On the other hand, it was my strength of faith that showed me a future that included walking on my own, and even being able to type again with fingers that could barely pick up a penny from the table. Then, remembering the words of my dad ringing in my head brought a smile, “Billy, how do you eat an elephant?”, with laughing eyes he said, “One bite at a time. One small bite at a time!”
It was in thinking about what’s next, what does the world look like after a pandemic, that led me to hear my dad’s wise words again. This is the understanding that gives me peace and comfort in that every action we take for good, big or small, will only make things better. Likewise, all actions that speak of hatred, bitterness and doubt, will only serve to make things worse.
Going forward, it is my belief that it is not our job to rebuild the trust in the world. That is a very big job. Trust only comes from the small actions that each of us takes to make our world better. When combined with the trusting, good intentions of others, our world is a better place for all. Trust is part of who we are, and while we all hope that governments and organizations do the right thing, it is up to us as individuals to make the right decision. Sadly, we cannot control another’s actions, only our own.
When we band together in groups, seeking comfort in conformity, we often sacrifice our individual decisions in alignment with the group. This is the core of my disdain for “group thinking” throughout all sides of the political spectrum. Top down, collective rationalization, has led to the demise and destruction of so much life throughout history. You would think we would have learned our lesson by now.
After all, how often are we told the group is more important than the individual? If the group survives it can only be good for the individual. Right? It might surprise most to know of my emphatic agreement with that statement. Throughout my life, it has been my sincere desire to put the needs of others in front of my needs. To always lead with love. This is the second great commandment that Christ taught, to love one another.
My dilemma is who makes the choice? The group, or the individual? Are we to fall “lock-step” in line with what the majority tells us is best? How is that working for you?
Whenever these thoughts come to mind, it takes me back to the Star Trek movie where Spock died. Looking Captain Kirk in the eyes, while sacrificing himself to save the Enterprise, Spock whispers, “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.” Truly a supreme sacrifice to protect the entire crew. Who made the sacrifice? Mr. Spock, the crew or Starfleet?
For me, that is the difference. Where the decision is made. If Starfleet headquarters had ordered Spock to do what he did, would it be a sacrifice? Ultimately, who paid the price? History is full of groups directing individuals to “take one for the team”. From the horrendous blood sacrifices of ancient times to the “for the good of all” directives of the holocaust. All, terrible decisions that were the result of “top-down” group thinking.
It is with this understanding that it is on my heart to caution all about forthcoming decisions and directives in reaction to our recovery from the pandemic. Humanity has an opportunity to reset the reality of how we live, how we treat and encourage one another. Hopefully, as individuals, we’ll each take the time to fully examine how we got here. Not to lay blame on one another, holding this group or person accountable for mistakes. Truth be known, mistakes on all sides are rampant, and ripe for criticism. Instead, it is my hope and prayer that we all investigate where our trust is, and how best to rebuild trust in our systems, governments and most importantly each other.
It was my lessons in rehab that taught me not to rely on others to rebuild my trust. It was completely up to me. Before any growth, it was up to me to trust first. No matter what the therapists did, if my heart wasn’t in it, trust would never come. However, it was the encouragement from the therapists, loved ones and friends that empowered me to take those first (frightful) small steps of trust. With each step, while realizing each small victory, my trust grew.
So, as we all come out of these horrific experiences of the last few months, hopefully, we can all start with small steps of trust. Not in governments, systems and organizations. But trust in each other while surrounded by trusting individuals that will encourage us all to do the right thing.
Love God, Love People!
Mark & Kayleen