Riley is the seven year old Golden Retriever who lives with his human family across the street from Max and me. Riley has been well trained to stay within the boundaries of his home. Riley loves his tennis ball. Riley has trained all of us who know him how to play ball with him. His way of ball-throwing is a bit unorthodox. Riley gets so excited when he has someone to play with that when he approaches with the ball in his mouth he gets so excited he forgets to let go of the ball. Riley dances in front of the would-be-ball-thrower, shifting his weight from foot to foot, back and forth, the whole time grunting and snorting and whining at a high decibel, drooling, sneezing, he is so excited to play … he just can’t let go of the ball! Eventually, if you know Riley, he does drop the ball, but it requires you waiting an unusually long time to throw the ball with the neighbors dog!
Hannah is the 25 year old daughter of my next door neighbors who during this time of corona virus returned home from New York City to hunker down here in Virginia until it is safe to return to the big city. Last week I saw Hannah spy Riley across the street from our homes. In turn Riley spied Hannah. Immediately Riley picked up his green tennis ball and came to the curb, did not cross the street, but began his tribal dance until Hannah met him at the curb. Hannah put out her hand and waited for the ball, but Riley kept on dancing. Back and forth. Up and down. Sniffing, snorting, grunting, sneezing. The whole while Hannah smiling and giggling so we could all hear. Finally she turned to me and said, “I want to throw the ball with Riley, but I just don’t know the rules!”
I am still smiling over that sight with Hannah’s beautiful inquisitive look. I said “if you give him long enough, another minute or so, he’ll drop his ball at your feet.” Eventually Hannah and Riley gained their rhythm and enjoyed a nice game of ball throwing.
During this time of the corona virus, I feel sometimes like I can hear the whole world collectively saying, “Tell me again, what are the rules?” I learned on Wednesday that after a valiant attempt to teach online that Fairfax County Public Schools called off school for another day, without much information, leaving its constituents to sort of figure things out on their own. On the one hand we need to be patient with entire systems used to doing things one way and having to learn how to do them another way. On the other hand, Fairfax County Public Schools is the fourth largest school system in the country – so if they’re having trouble figuring this stuff out, how much more so other systems must be struggling.
It’s understandable if we find ourselves frustrated and struggling sometimes because the rules seem to keep changing. It’s only natural to feel a little angry, sometimes depressed, and left with more questions than answers. Some families have had their entire lives upended by the virus, while other families appear to be thriving just fine. It’s an interesting time to be sure.
While the rules seem to be shifting (stay home, no wait, you actually can go out and shop for food, but stay home the rest of the time … wear masks, wait, don’t wear masks, masks don’t work, oh wait, they actually do work, well, sometimes, anyway! Right?!) The rules shift …
… while other rules remain the same. As followers of Jesus the two main commands remain the same. Love God. Love neighbor. In my Easter homily I shared a quote from Jimmy Carter’s book: Sources of Strength, where he tells a story about a Cuban pastor named Eloy Cruz. Carter observed that Cruz seemed to have a special touch with poor people who were also immigrants. Carter saw Cruz connect with person after person. Cruz always had the right word to say––just the right touch. Invariably, people walked away from their encounter with Pastor Cruz just a little stronger––just a little more hopeful––just a little better prepared to face life’s challenges.
Carter asked Cruz the secret of his success. At first, Cruz was embarrassed––but then he thought for a moment and was able to answer Carter’s question. Cruz said: “Señor Jimmy, we only need to have two loves in our lives. For God, and for the person who happens to be standing in front of us at any given time.”
That’s how Jesus lived His entire life. One person after another, Jesus loved the person who was standing right in front of Him at any given time. Those are the rules. They’ve always been the rules. For as much as has changed, much has remained the same.
You’re doing great everyone. Hang in here with us. Stay safe at home. Do wear masks. Do socially distance yourself while out. This time too shall pass. Until then please continue to click in to the options you see below and if you’d like, please join us for Zoom Coffee Hour on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Please keep me – and Emmanuel – in yours.
— Chuck McCoart, April 2020
PS: For those looking for a walk-down-memory-lane distraction, check out this link to Chet Powers 1964 hit song titled: “Get Together” — recorded by the Youngbloods. An apt song for loving those who are close to us – as well as far away. If you so desire switch up the lyric “brother” to also include “sister” or “neighbor” or any “other” you are trying to love. The song was originally written as an appeal for peace and brotherhood, presenting the polarity of love versus fear, and the choice to be made between them. Enjoy and turn up those speakers!
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog