The only constant is change…

October 21, 2020

In his blog post today, Pastor Freed used this quote from George Bernard Shaw – “The only one I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.  The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”  Freed also used a quote from someone whom I’m sure many of his readers never knew –“people who don’t change are in the cemetery” (Everett Dirksen).  Dirksen was a U.S. Senator from Illinois who was a talented orator with a florid style and a notably rich baritone voice. Dirksen was a Republican and served as the Minority Leader from 1959 to 1959. Back in those days when there was compromise and collaboration between the parties in Congress, he helped write and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, both landmark pieces of legislation during the Civil Rights Movement. It is hard to even imagine the two parties compromising on anything these days.

Jack commented upon the changes that we all go through in our lives, from the size clothes that we wear to our opinions on things. Although some are slower than others to change, everyone has a different view of the world around them today than that had a year ago or ten years ago. That different perspective on the people and events that shape our lives lead us to different conclusions than we might have held in the past and hopefully to take different actions.

Sometimes events  bring back to the surface thoughts that were always there, but which had faded. The events which lead to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement brought back our memories of, and belief in, the inequities and injustice suffered by people of color that had faded into the background for many. Complacency oft fills the void left when commitment and compassion fade. Jarring events like the killing of George Floyd serve to snap those feeling back to the fore. Few remember that the Black Lives Matter movement actually went back to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin and the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was first used in 2013. America had become complacent again.

Certainly, the events of 2020 and the COVID-19 crisis have changed all of us. There is no way that anyone anywhere could have remained unaffected by this crisis. How has it made you different? How has it changed your daily life? What things have you done to make the best of a bad situation?

We see ads now telling  us that there is no going back to the “good old days”, but rather that we must adapt, change and move forward in this new reality. The old ways have quickly fading away and new ways to work, to shop and to live are taking their place. Some are resisting those changes with all of their might. Many are frustrated and some have become depressed; others have quickly embraced the changes and are thriving. We all need to be more like the tailor in today’s quote and take new measurements of life around us. We need to tailor new responses and fit into the new reality because it is not going to change to fit us.

I believe that the thing that through us off the most was the speed of the changes that the COVID crisis caused. It certainly wasn’t a slow, orderly change in most people’s lives. All of a sudden most of what you were used to doing was off limits or restricted. The people that you were used to seeing and hugging and talking with were gone – even family members were admonished to stay apart if they didn’t live together. Our world was turned upside down and many of us fell on our heads.  Some were left hanging; clinging to something (anything) familiar from the past. We desperately hoped that things would get “back to normal”. Then we were introduced to the term “the new normal” and we knew that there was no going back.

So, here we are living in the “new normal”. Most (thought unfortunately not all) have accepted and gotten used to changes like wearing masks in public to protect each other. We have adapted to social distancing in restaurants and stores. We have shifted much of our shopping and entertainment and even our church services on-line. Slowly, most have refocused from grudging defiance of the new normal to an attitude of making the best of it and finding new ways to live fulfilling lives under the constraints that are out of our control. There will always be the angry, the defiant and the unhappy among us; there always has been, even in the times before COVID. You do not have to try to fit with them. They will either come round to the changes that are required by the new normal or they will end up were Dirksen predicted. There is no bouncing back; so, it’s time, as the current Verizon ad says, to spring forward.

Make the changes in your life to fit into the new normal and get on with life. It’s a new day and you need to be a new you.

What is the new normal? It is simple.

July 7, 2020

Pastor Jack Freed used this quote this morning in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Everything is simple.”  (Mike Corrao)

Jack when on to write about keeping things simple and not overthinking things. He used the example of how a child might think about things – simple and straightforward, without the guile that comes with age. He also cited the words of Jesus – “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:9-17)

The point is that, in order to keep things simple, we need to avoid overthinking them and loading them up with interpretations, conspiracy theories and other mental baggage that are just figments of our imagination. We must accept things as they are and as they happen and then adjust our lives to fit the situation. Changing the way things are is not an option. Changing the way we react to things is within our power.

We hear a lot about the “new normal” these days, on the news shows and in conversations. We also see quite a few stories about people who are trying to deny or resist the changes that are required to live normally these days – those who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing is the name of personal freedom.

One might logically ask, what is “normal”? The dictionary defines it as “the usual, average, or typical state or condition”. The thing is that normal is, and always will be, a moving target. What was normal yesterday will not necessarily define what is normal today.  A simple example is how we dress each day. “Normal” dress during the summer months is quite different from that which is expected and normal during the winter months.

The reason that we seldom notice and rail against most of the changes to our normal lives is that those changes usually take place over an extended period. We have time to adjust. Certain events like deaths often happen suddenly and without warning and they do disturb our normal lives. Many changes are so small that we don’t perceive how our lives have changed to accommodate them or we have time to adjust our reactions to those changes.

Then there is a pandemic and everything changes rapidly and greatly. Our “normal” lives are turned upside down and nothing feels normal anymore. What are we to do? Perhaps the advice that Jesus was trying to convey provides the answer. We must become like children, accept the changes and go on with life. Trying to resist the change that COVID-19 has brought with it is both futile and harmful. Those who refuse to accept it, refuse to wear masks in public and refuse to social distance as a means of keeping others safe are like the little child who throws a fit when things don’t go his or her way. Central to their behavior is their absolute self-centered refusal to be concerned for the safety and well-being of others.

Jesus told us that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39), not that we must love ourselves above our neighbors. Not practicing the safety measures that our health experts have recommended to keep others safe is a sure sign that we are not heading Jesus message. Wearing a mask and social distancing is not about you; it is about committing to the safety of those around you – it is about loving your neighbors. It is simple. It is about doing what is right.

So, what is our new normal? It is all of the things that are expected of us to fulfill our roll as part of a society and not as an anarchy of individuals. It is showing love and respect for our neighbors by doing the things that have been recommended to keep us all safe. It is being childlike in our acceptance of the changes required in our daily lives without throwing childlike fits when those changes make reasonable demands upon us. It is acting upon the words of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves and doing our part to keep them safe.

It really is simple.  It is the new normal.

Let it go and move on…

May 16, 2020

We keep hearing about “the new normal”; but that is because most are still clinging to the hope of returning to the past – “the old normal”.

A quote from a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Word blog comes to mind – “If you have a hard time forgetting the past, remember you can’t drive a car forward by looking into the rearview mirror.”

I’ve written here in the past about letting things go, usually about mistakes that one has made or old relationships that went awry; but, this is different. When your whole way of life is impacted by events it is harder to find a way to let go of how things were and move on with how things are. Really big events, like wars or the happening of 9/11 or pandemics can dramatically reshape our lives and take a long time to put behind us.

We do need to stop looking back at how things were and start figuring out the best way forward in our “new normal”. Many have already taken the step of procuring stylish face masks, having decided that if one has to wear a mask, it should at least be stylish or attractive. I suspect that most also carry hand sanitizer with them and take the time to sanitize often. Most are practicing some amount of social distancing and I suspect that will continue for a while. It may take a while for many of us to get comfortable in crowded spaces or to allow personal touch at places, such as barbershops and hair salons, but that will come out of necessity.

We must also deal with the permanent changes in our economy that this crisis has caused– the companies, stores and restaurants that will now be gone and the business practices that have changed. This crisis exacerbated an already troublesome trend for some merchants of people shopping on-line instead of in their stores. Many more people stayed home and shopped at Amazon, Wayfair, Chewy or other on-line stores than would have otherwise.  Many local merchants also joined the on-line trend as a way to survive during the crisis, but they will likely still depend upon local foot traffic for their future; it will just be a little different in the stores.

Restaurants were probably hardest hit, with many not expected to reopen (estimates are that between 10-15% of all restaurants will be permanently closed). Those that do reopen will present a very different look to patrons, with capacity limitations and social distancing constraints greatly impacting the dining experience. The menu’s may be the same, but “going out to eat” will never quite be the same. Still, it’s better than staying home to eat and we can still see other people – they are only 6’ away.

It can take a generation or two for these big, life-changing events to be pushed down in our consciousness to the point where we don’t think of them often. Those who lived through them seldom forget them, because they remember what life was like before them. Those born after the event have no frame of reference for how things here. For them “the new normal” is just normal.

So, here we are, about to start the “new normal”. A big first step will be putting the old normal behind us instead of continuing to look in that rear view mirror. Let it go and let’s move on.

 My, what a stylish mask you have on, where did you get that?