As a kid, I was incredibly healthy and active. That translated into some amazing memories related to high school sports, with success, failure, perseverance, camaraderie and even a short stint as a college athlete. It also translated into a lot of joy. I found joy in movement, joy in focus, joy in discipline and joy in results.
Like my namesake Liddell, I felt His glory when I ran.
That all changed at some point.
I got sick. And it was much worse than you think. It messed up my life somewhat in every measurable way, but it wasn’t all that “bad.” And there was really nothing to be done, other than take vitamins and ride it out. It was more irritating than life threatening.
It was a drag on the ticket, a monkey in the wrench, a something in the ointment or soup that turned out to be a fly. I could still function… but there was a lot of fatigue and coping and trying to sip around the stupid fly. I had about 3 good hours a day, then I was exhausted. Life became more about tying my shoes and less about dreams of greatness. And it just didn’t go away. This cycle continued for months, and the months turned into years.
The amazing thing about this chapter, was that, at a few months in, I became a caretaker for someone much sicker than I was. And even in my limited experience and exposure to woes of health - it made me better. Don’t read “saint” here, I was even more selfish then than I am now. But I was a little more patient, a bit more compassionate, more understanding, more proactive, more responsive, more perceptive, and more loving. I was a little more all of these things, simply because, to some extent, I knew what it felt like to truly feel bad. To feel trapped. To feel diminished. To feel like this is never going to end. That lesson became a hammer for me, and if I didn’t beat back the darkness to the thundering of a glorious soundtrack… I did strike a blow here and there.
It wasn’t the sickness that was a blessing, the sickness was an obnoxious guest that overstayed his welcome. But it brought an entire range of blessing as a set of unforeseen consequence in me. Suddenly, I had this amazing filter on the world and a visceral realization of how precious health really is. It was a change in perspective, and very much a change of heart. It simply made me a better human, and one that was much more willing to be generous in practical ways for someone struggling with health issues of their own. I needed to learn how to be helpful in times of helplessness and how to be truly encouraging when the light in the room was set too low. I needed to learn how to let go and just sit with someone. I needed to learn how to listen.
Right now our mitigation of the corona virus feels like a pall. It’s a fog overlaying the landscape, a plate filled with action, inaction, over-reaction, with a side of devastating economic consequence.
My ridiculously optimistic message today is about the upside. And there is an upside. Here it is:
- We will value community more than we did yesterday
- We will continue to take steps to protect the least of these
- Toilet paper will finally get the appreciation it so richly deserves
- Our priorities will be a bit healthier
- We will better recognize how fragile life and security really is
Like most things, this too shall pass. Corona virus will come and eventually, it will go. It will.
But starting now and even more then, we will have the opportunity to be more than we were: more grateful and more graceful, more selfless and more good, less isolated and more loving in ways that matter.
It’s not a given. But this experience has the potential to make us better family members, better friends, and better people. We have a beautiful window to upgrade our communities with a healthier perspective on the important things of life. Instead of just being infected with a new bug, we have the chance to do something quite cool.
We will step into a positive viral movement that will spread in much the same way. Close contact. Social interaction. Groups of however many people we can cram into a room for something good. Infecting each other shamelessly with joy and community and good ideas. If we can remember the lessons we’re learning now, if we take time to be intentional with life and relationships... over time and in the long run...
this sickness will be a blessing.