Until next year…

It was, on the one hand, a hard decision to make. Who wants to be the one to cancel a beloved event that has taken place on the East Woodstock Common since 1957?  It felt agonizing.

            And yet, on the other hand, it was very clear that it was the only practical and prudent decision that was available.

            Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that a Bible story played into the decision to cancel our Jamboree.

 In Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, there are two brothers, Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve.  Both brothers are trying to be faithful followers of God so each of them carries an offering to place on God’s altar. Without explanation, God accepts the gift of Abel but rejects what Cain has to offer. This infuriates Cain. He is filled with anger so he attacks his brother and kills him.

            When God comes looking for the brothers and can only find one, God turns to Cain and wonder about Abel’s whereabouts. Cain doesn’t want this responsibility so he angrily asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

            It is significant that the answer is so obvious that God doesn’t even bother voicing it. Instead, God shows what it means to care and especially to care for those in need. Throughout the rest of the Bible, God shows what compassion and care looks like. God protects the stranger, welcomes the outcast, tends to the sick, and searches for those who are lost. God is our keeper. And we are keepers of one another.

            That’s why we are canceling the Jamboree this year. We are trying to take care of one another. I might not be sick with Covid-19 and you may not be either. But we could easily infect someone else and that person could spread the virus to others. It is an unacceptable risk.

            We are not ending the Jamboree. We are pushing the pause button. We are planning to gather on July 4, 2021 so we can celebrate with renewed gratitude and a whole new appreciation of being together. Until then, we are all called to be each other’s keepers – to visit those who are lonely, to help those who may need a hand, to pick up groceries, to pitch in with chores, to make a phone call or send an email.

            The story of Cain and Abel reminds us that our lives are entwined with one another. We are all in this together. We can care for one another. Together, we will go forward to a brighter future.

            See you next year!

Virus and Bias

When things go wrong – and let’s face it, things have gone really wrong lately – our first impulse is to find the cause. We would like a logical explanation followed by an outline on how to fix it and make it better.

            Unfortunately, bad things happen to good (and not-so-good) people all the time. Frustratingly, there isn’t always a clear reason. One of my new favorite books is called Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) by Kate Bowler. When she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 35, her personal suffering led her to explore the notion that all of life’s challenges are somehow a test of character. Her conclusion? There is no logical pattern – sometimes bad things just happen.

            That brings us to today. We are all being affected by events beyond our control. It is scary and unnerving. The coronavirus is changing life as we know it. There will be a solution and a cure someday but not before thousands of people have died. None of us have experienced a pandemic like this before.

            Fear of the unknown and the yearning to identify a “reason” for our distress can lead people down the path of racism and finger-pointing. My cousin adopted two toddlers from China; these lovely young women are now in their early twenties. Both of them have reported a disturbing increase in hurtful and racist comments. One described driving to a convenience store to pick up milk when a stranger threw pebbles at her car and told her to “go back where she came from.” She skipped her errands and went home that day. But sometimes they need to go out and too often they are met by people who roll their eyes or make an exaggeratedly wide berth around them. Others are more direct: “Go back to Wuhan!” or “Aren’t you glad your people brought this disease here!”

            Angry and frightened people say thoughtless and foolish things. Now is time to speak up. This is not the “Chinese flu.” This is a virus with a scientific name – Covid-19. It doesn’t have a nationality. It is no one’s “fault.” It is an equal-opportunity disease searching for a host – humans – across the globe. To state the obvious – people of Chinese descent are not more likely to carry the illness or pass it on.

Instead of fighting one another, let’s work together to make an overwhelming situation more bearable. We can correct misconceptions that seek to blame one group and speak for those who are targeted by ignorance. Let’s recognize that people of every race, age, and culture will be affected by this crisis. We need to support and help one another in order to survive. People across the globe will always be stronger when we look past our differences and recognize our shared humanity. Together we will get through this so we can look forward to better days ahead.