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Fear-shaming seems to be a thing these days. As if showing respect for a novel coronavirus and figuring out how to minimize its risks are somehow the actions of cowards (and/or the faithless) versus a fact-seeking mission to determine what we can and cannot control about this threat that has seemingly thrown our world off its axis.

For years, my family has called me Safety Mom, in part because I had writing jobs about safety and baby products. But I guess you could probably argue that I was able to get hired for those jobs because I’ve always been one to think about safety concerns. Do I live my life in fear? No. Yet I do live my life by researching safety risks and analyzing various protections and preparations. When it comes to safety, there are many factors not under our control—my approach is to put my efforts toward simple ways to reduce risks. In the end, that’s all anyone can do. After all, we’re not in charge!

For background, I admit that I come from a somewhat overprotected childhood.

First of all, my dad was raised an only child, but, really, he was the child who followed the death of his parents’ only other child. My grandparents were so afraid of losing him that he was raised as a fragile piece of china—even though he grew up on a Depression-era farm. His nickname in school became “Mittens”—because he wasn’t allowed to get dirty or roughhouse. He grew up to earn a professional degree and work as a pharmacist, only using his hands to count pills and type labels. My father seemed a stranger to his own body—living in a cerebral world where physical risks were minimized. For him, it was his lifestyle focused on comforts that threatened his physical health more than outside risks or movements.

And, for me—I was the baby who did not die when my body raged with infection at four months of age. But the experience left me underweight and scrambling to catch up. My dad’s mom would grab my hands and say things like, “She has hands like a bird. Do you think she will make it?” And whenever I fell down in her presence, she would gasp in fear for me—a reaction that never went away throughout all the normal bumps and bruises of my childhood. Not until I could get my tonsils out, a procedure delayed by my lack of weight gain, could I finally grow into a sturdy child—one who tried to pump hard enough to wrap the swing around the bar, who rode my bike up gravel country roads, climbed trees, screwed up her courage to plunge off the high board, and who, in my teens, jumped at a chance to learn to ski.

Compared to my husband (he of a very physical childhood with his two brothers and more than a few broken bones between them, and a current serious mountain-biking addiction) and my own kids, who I strove not to inject with the legacy of fear my family had attempted to swaddle me in, I am a delicate little flower.

However, I do not often cower in fear. I prepare myself by reading the latest studies (from a layman’s perspective), while watching for bias or updated information. My educational background is in reading and writing, and my current editing work falls in the area of science education—an area where I was NOT naturally drawn to at a young age. No doubt my growth into Safety Mom drove me toward trying to figure out how different factors affect health. In general, if my research tells me something I don’t want to hear, I have to decide how badly I want to avoid the risks.

Unfortunately, what I read at this point in our early days of understanding the current viral threat is that how I respond to safety precautions matters to the health of many beyond my own circle. I don’t really spend a lot of time worrying about myself—or even about those whom I love. Instead, I spend time making certain that—as much as possible—I follow the current recommended safety precautions.

What looks like fear to many is actually love. I am doing unto others what I want them to do for me (see Matthew 7:12). I do this because of what Jesus said—not because I don’t have faith. What if keeping our lamps trimmed and burning (see Matthew 25:1-13) is actually about being prepared to care for others in this interim of waiting for better solutions to this illness? Could the inconvenience of loving our neighbors by maintaining distances and wearing facial coverings actually demonstrate that we are willing to accept God’s timing and ways—in all things, including how and when the bridegroom will arrive?

Fear not, but prepare wisely. Because we do not know the hour or time, one way to keep watch is by showing your love.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

During what we know as the Last Supper, Jesus spent much of his precious remaining time trying to prepare his followers for how they needed to live after he was gone. And, what was the lesson he felt most compelled to share? Just this: Love one another.

The words from the lectionary (April 24, 2016) read:

John 13:31-35

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We, like the disciples before us, are so often slow to learn. When Jesus said to love one another—he meant to love everyone. But the disciples weren’t certain that the type of love shared with people who were like them should be shared with people, well, not so like them. Not just shared with people who were known as sinners, but also with people outside their faith and traditions. And, yet as those disciples and followers grew in their faith and understanding, they began to get it—Jesus had really meant for them to love everyone. Let us so grow in our own faith and understanding that, we, too, show—through our actions and our words—what it means to love everyone.

Who are we to hinder God and his plan for love for everyone?

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

You know that old saying, “Unless you stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”—well, that’s why having beliefs matter, why having something to base your life on matters. Yes, actions speak louder than words, but if you know what you really believe, it’s easier to direct your actions, even if you sometimes fall short.

I’m not saying that you have to believe exactly as I do, but I do think the world we live in needs a whole lot more of us attempting to live out the tenets of the Golden Rule—doing unto others as we would like done unto ourselves. And, it’s not good enough only applying the Golden Rule to people we consider similar enough to us to be considered our neighbors. We’ve got to do a better job of looking out for everyone, both in our individual interactions with people and through how we treat people as a whole in our society.

This “looking out for number one” stuff just doesn’t work for building up the social order. Yet, sometimes it seems as if many of us support tearing down much of what has been built for the greater good in the last century. I mean, if it doesn’t affect us then, does it really matter?

Most of us have never experienced the absoluteness of a time without social safety nets which makes it easier to believe in the power of the individual. We didn’t live through the Great Depression or World War II, or a time when widows, orphans, the ill, the disabled, or the elderly had to rely only on the kindness of voluntary institutions or donors.

When we try to understand others’ experiences, we have a better chance at feeling empathy for and caring for others. But even when we can’t really begin to understand those experiences, we still know in our hearts quite a bit about how we want to be treated—and not treated—by others.

Believing in the Golden Rule is all about believing that other human beings matter, despite knowing that others don’t always deserve our good treatment any more than we always deserve good treatment from others. By extending each other more credit than we warrant, we lift up everyone—and, consequently, the world in which we all live—together. From this belief my best efforts and actions follow.

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