The contrast between responding to a crisis and normal activities is extremely stark if one pauses to reflect. An extreme which continues to puzzle me is normal response to death. When a friend’s loss becomes known everything else is life takes second priority. You can watch the meetings being taken off the diaries; everyone takes the initiative to rearrange schedules; compassionate offers to help emerge from the most unlikely corners. You can see this across the spectrum of activities. Sports fans understand there heroes need to take time for family business, corporate bosses wear a kind face for a short period of time, and people preoccupied with the materials things take time for relationships.
This type of response isn’t new. People throughout the ages have responded when family or friends face a tragedy. Even in Biblical times, “Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother.” (John 11.18, 19) Yet the fact that our response isn’t new, and it is starkly different from our normal daily routine, gives me reason to pause.
Why should I accept the “norm” of family coming second except when someone dies? Is there a reason consistent with the values and priorities of compassion and love that explains how we often manage our time and schedules? Can we achieve success and not pay the price of abandoning, metaphorically or in practice, our families and close relationships?
I find myself pausing as a grapple with a simple loss. Someone close to me played a basketball game last night. I wasn’t there to see and experience it. I’m sure the game went on. I am not worried about which time scored more points. I am struck by the loss of the experience and the price I paid to stay on the treadmill of success.
I don’t know what “the” answer is; not for myself or anyone else. I do know we have a choice. Today’s dawn is a window of opportunity. What will we choose to do?
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