Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4
The events in the US for the past couple of months were catastrophic by any measure. First, Covid-19 triggered a lockdown, which, in turn, caused businesses to close and widespread unemployment.
Then, you have a senseless killing of George Floyd, a black man, in Minnesota by a white policeman, causing peaceful protests which led to riots and violence in cities in the US and protests in Europe. The murder was caught on video and went viral.
I think of responding to these events in “R” words :
- Reopening (businesses, schools, etc.);
- Recovery (of jobs from economic recession), and
- Riots (caused by protests gone awry).
That’s a trifecta of “R” s. A perfect storm, if you will.
America was already dealing with the first two – trying to reopen after Covid -19 and trying to recover from the fallout of high unemployment caused by lockdowns.
Protests from the Floyd murder started immediately, first in Minneapolis, and then in Louisville over the death of a Breonna Taylor, an aspiring black nurse. The protests were largely peaceful during the day, but were hijacked at night, causing widespread damage, mayhem and looting.
I was dismayed and sent friends of mine an email that these events had the chance of blowing up like the riots during the 1960’s in Newark, NJ, Harlem, NY and Watts in Los Angeles. I was in college at the time.
Sadly, I was right, and riots, chaos and looting occurred in many cities in America. The protests were led by Black Lives Matter, an activist organization opposed to police brutality and racism. The movement seized the Floyd murder as a rallying cry.
Protests are legal and appropriate. What is not appropriate is what happened after dark by criminals and anarchists who took advantage of the situation through looting, violence and mayhem. People are unanimous to the idea that police brutality is abhorrent, but not to the breathtaking violence and riots that ensued.
I will leave the issue racism and what to do about it for a later post. It is too complex to try and cover here. “Where Do We Go From Here?” is a free book from Barna which is insightful.
Instead, I want to introduce a concept for the next generation which is what they will need to power through these times. It’s another “R” word. It is Resilience. The next generation is looking for hope in dark times. Even if they are Christian, their faith may not be mature enough to be of help.
Life can be cruel sometimes and, to the next generation, these are unprecedented and difficult times. But so was the polio epidemic in the early 1950’s.
Polio kills by suffocation – not by damaging the lungs, as Covid-19 does. It attacks motor neurons in the spinal cord, destroying communication between the nervous system and muscles. The resulting paralysis meant that the breathing muscles no longer work.
Polio has all but been erased from our memory due to the polio vaccine. But it was a real threat and affected thousands, mostly children, globally. Seven people died in my wife’s small community in a rural part of North Carolina.
There were lockdowns then, too. Schools and church services were suspended. In summer, swimming pools, movies, bars and bowling alleys were closed. Still, the numbers of children affected climbed because no one knew how to contain it. Does this sound familiar?
Paul Alexander contracted polio in a small Texas town in 1952. He was paralyzed from the neck down and wasn’t expected to live. He was placed in a ward with other children who were all in iron lungs to help them breathe.
He said it was a boring existence in his ward but, “Every time I tried to make a friend; they’d die.” It made him furious when he overheard doctors saying, “He’s going to die today.”
He decided they were wrong and taught himself how to breath by what he called “frog breathing” which is swallowing air. The technical name is “glossopharyngeal breathing”.
He was able to get out of the iron lung during the day. He graduated from high school at age 21, without having attended class. He graduated from college and then got a law degree from the University of Texas. He practiced law for decades propped up in a wheelchair.
He is now 74 and confined to the iron lung. He is one of only 2 survivors in the US. Even today, he is held in awe by those around him and is a celebrity of sorts because of his uniqueness. He answers all questions with humor. After all, he says, “I’m a lawyer, I get paid to talk.”
He likes talking about his life and the lung, because he wants to world to know what polio is like and “what he achieved in spite of it.” That’s what I call Resilience, with a capital “R”.
It is what the next generation needs to hear and see today. They, too, can achieve many things despite the Perfect Storm.
They meed to have hope, not despair. They need to hear stories of people who have overcome insurmountable circumstances and made the best of it. They need to know that obstacles of life are just a challenge, and perseverance and resilience will conquer almost anything.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You can inspire your mentee to be an overcomer through the perfect storm of life right now. They need encouragement to persevere at a time when they are anxious about the future.
FURTHER READING: The Man in the Iron Lung – Guardian
Where Do We Go From Here – A free Barna book on dealing with racial divides for church leaders.
WORSHIP: Better than a Hallelujah – Amy Grant
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