…here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days, you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. — President Joseph R. Biden, January 20, 2021
No truer words were ever spoken and President Biden ought to know. Just when he thought his world was a beautiful dream it turned into a nightmare when his wife and a daughter were killed in a car wreck on a trip to purchase a Christmas tree. If ever there is someone who can identify with what happened to him it would be me. I understand why he has never really gotten over that tragedy because even sixty four years later I still have vivid memories of the Memorial Day morning when I awoke to find that my father had died in a car accident the night before.
These kind of horrors plague us all and when they happen we really do depend on the kindness of others to see us through. In my own case there was a community of relatives and friends and neighbors and a young Catholic priest who came to the rescue of me and my family. I don’t see how we would have made it without them and it is the reason why such relationships have always been of utmost importance to me.
My Aunt Valeria was there from the first moment that my mother called her hysterically in the middle of the night. My Uncle William demonstrated a simple kindness that I have attempted to emulate for all of my life. My Uncle Jack helped us to find a home and a car to provide us with the security that we feared we would never again feel. That young priest comforted my mother over when her mental state was crashing. People brought us food and walked with us until we once more found our footing.
Later I would observe my mother sitting with a neighbor whose life was falling apart. I saw her reaching out to the sick, taking food to those in need. She was one of those people who understood the need to reciprocate for all of the goodness that had been bestowed upon her. Her generosity was legendary and when she died my brothers and I learned that she was even more giving than we had realized.
We are at a crossroads in our country. We will either defeat the pandemic together or suffer the consequences of refusing to sacrifice for the common good. Unless we are willing to give a little of our freedom by wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated there is no telling how long we will suffer from this virus that has no respect for us. It’s well past time for each of us the play a part, to lend a hand in the battle to control this illness.
We want to be viewed as the greatest country on earth and we have a good argument for earning that title but we also must be willing to admit that being the best does not mean that we are perfect. There is definitely much work to be done. We might begin by having a willingness to learn about those who are different from ourselves. Listening is a wonderful way of beginning a process of repairing the difficulties that we have historically ignored. We need to really hear the voices of those who still face inequities that we have never endured.
There are ways that each and every one of us can make a difference with our environment. We have so many wasteful activities. If we simply thought about our actions with a mind toward eliminating or even just reducing the damage that we do to our earth I suspect that we would soon notice the kind of healing that we need. I know that in my neck of the woods hurricanes are a constant threat. When one hits our area the damage is epic. We not only need but greatly appreciate the help that we receive but we rarely change our ways once we have returned to normal. We build more neighborhoods on land that flooded even when it was originally an open field that help water that might have gone inside someone’s home. We eschew attempts to create mass transit systems to get all of the cars off of our roads. When we should reciprocate with better behavior we just carry on as usual disregarding our own parts in the dangers of future weather events.
We often want help from our country but then do not want to assist in the efforts to keep our nation safe and equitable. We want to get but not to give. It’s time we accepted the one truth of living and that is that fate will deal us some horrific surprises and when it does we all hope that someone will give us the helping hand we need. When times are good we should all be looking for the places where others need our hands to survive. It’s how community is supposed to work and that is a challenge that we would do well to accept.