When I was growing up in Atlanta, Georgia (I am a baby boomer), houses had front porches, only rich people had garages (at least from my child’s perspective), kids played outside after our homework was completed until it became dark, families visited on front lawns or had backyard cookouts when the summer nights were warm, and we knew all our neighbors. If you misbehaved, your parents were bound to hear about it from a neighbor.
Somewhere about the 1980’s garages with remote controls became all the rage. People could leave for work in the morning, come home in the evening, and park their cars in the garage, without seeing anyone. With the rise of computers and video games, children preferred screen time to outside play. And before long we no longer seemed to know our neighbors. It is no wonder that we have become an incredibly individualistic society, replacing the importance of the common good. Individual rights and comforts seemed to supplant our understanding of sacrifice and community.
And now we face a common enemy in the form of a pandemic which affects us all – regardless of political affiliation, race, gender, economic status, and now, we are learning, even age. Coronavirus is not discriminating. As we are being instructed to limit our contact with people and stay at home, we are re-learning or re-discovering what it means to care about the common good. And the common good knows no national boundaries; this is a global pandemic. The undeniable truth is that the quality of my life depends on the quality of your life. We are learning in our isolation, the value of the common good and community. And that’s the irony, isn’t it?
The Apostle Paul describes the church as being the Body of Christ. He says in his letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12), that we can not dismiss the heart from the lungs, or the knees from the elbows, if we want to function as a healthy body. In fact, he says, the members of the body which we might consider to be the lesser members, may, in fact, be the more important members for the functioning of the body.
A friend recently posted on Facebook that while she was driving through her neighborhood this week, she was surprised to see children outside riding their bikes and playing (all after school activities have been suspended), neighbors were visiting across their driveways and fences. It was something she had not seen in a while. With restaurants closed, families are forced to sit down and share a home cooked meal (or at least take out). She nostalgically mused that it reminded her of her childhood, when we realized the value of family, neighbors, community and children playing. Maybe one of the lessons we can glean from this tragic pandemic is that it is an incredible gift from God to be able to live in relationship with our family, friends, and neighbors, near and far. In our short-term isolation, we are recognizing the value of community.
Reverend debbie osterhoudt
I am very excited to join in the ministry at Peace Presbyterian Church as interim pastor! I graduated from Vanderbilt University and received my Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA. Before serving at Peace Presbyterian, I served in Triangle area churches as pastor, associate pastor and interim pastor for 33 years. I have a passion for my ministry and study, travel, walking, sailing (which I learned from my father) and gardening.