Thirty-six years ago, I walked out of Lutheran General Hospital in Chicago having just pulled the plug on the respirator that was keeping my 19-year-old daughter alive after a bad result from elective surgery performed three days earlier. This, of course, after an emotional consultation with both the legal, medical and religious professionals involved. Understandably, among the depressing moments in life this was certainly at the top.
As I exited the hospital good friends were coming in to see how everything was going, not knowing what had just occurred. When they heard, Fran, who with her husband also had the misfortune of burying a child some years earlier (although I was not aware of that at the time), said something that stayed with me since that moment. She said, “I cannot wait to see what good comes from this tragedy.”
During other crisis periods in my life this attitude was strengthened by others whose paths crossed mine and shared similar thoughts. I was on a plane from Israel to Paris five years later, shortly after my first wife died at the age of 49, and was sitting next to a Christian minister. It was a rather depressing time for me and we spoke at length during the almost five-hour flight. After a while he looked at me and said, “You know, something good comes out of every one of life’s depressing challenges, we just need to realize that everything is in God’s hands. The next years of your life will be the best ever.” And he was right.
None of the people I have met in life who shared that philosophy ever had data supported facts to prove their statements other than, perhaps, their own personal experience. But they understood the concept that as we go through life bad things will happen and that is a given. People we love will get sick, relatives and friends will die, financial ruin will happen, relationships will disintegrate and plagues will affect humankind. There is often little we can do about most of these occurrences, they just happen. What my messengers of hope as I call them understood, however, is that God’s expectation of all of us is for us to make the good things happen, to do something positive with the power that is in our minds, our hearts and our hands even in the face of tragic circumstances.
And that brings me to the plague called COVID-19 that has descended upon the world over these last months, which has now basically put all of us in lock down. To be sure it is a scary thing to see how this has affected so many people worldwide, has brought commerce to a standstill and upended the plans and dreams of so many people. And even though smart people like Bill Gates and others spoke years ago about the coming virus that will be resistant to traditional treatments and will paralyze humanity, bad things like this happen and there is little we can do to prevent them.
BUT, the positive side to all of this is that the good Lord has given us the power and understanding to rise above the challenge of COVID-19 and, once the threat ebbs, as it most certainly will, to create new life experiences that will be better than those we knew before this all began. I know that for sure because I’ve lived this multiple times during my lifetime.
To be sure we will not return to the old normal, that is the condition of the world that existed prior to the onset of this disaster. The world will have changed during this period, and we, individually, will have changed as well. All of us who think will understand ever more clearly how fragile life really is, how important relationships are, what it is we value above everything else and what is really important in life as so much of what we thought was so important turns out to be so unimportant in the face of such a challenge.
The new normal, the world each of us will build for ourselves, will, hopefully, be one where we relate more honestly to each other, where we value rather than judge the opinions of each other, and where we realize, once and for all, that we are all in God’s hands. If we can do so successfully the new normal will be infinitely better than what we thought was normal before this plague descended, but which we know now was really a world in need of a restart. Perhaps, just perhaps, this was God’s pushing the restart button on humanity.
As my friend Fran said 36 years ago, I echo today, “I cannot wait to see what good comes from this tragedy.” May we all be strengthened with that thought.