One of the positive things about this lockdown period is that many people are prepared to share their thoughts and reflections with each other more readily. One of the reflections that I came across this week was shared with us at our Social Justice series. Sarah Massard from Mercy Global International had come across a Poem by an anonymous author; it goes like this:
I’ve heard that we are in the same boat
I heard that we are in the same boat. But it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa. For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, of reconnection. For others, this is a desperate crisis. For others it is facing loneliness. For some, peace, rest time, vacation. Yet for others, Torture: How am I going to pay my bills? Some were concerned about a brand of chocolate for Easter. Others were concerned about the bread for the weekend, or if the noodles would last for a few more days.
Some were in their “home office”. Others are looking through trash to survive. Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, some are not sure their loved ones are going to make it, and some don’t even believe this is a big deal. Some of us who are well now may end up experiencing it, and some believe they are infallible and will be blown away if or when this hits someone they know.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different. And each one will emerge, in his own way, from that storm. Some with a tan from their pool. Others with scars on the soul (for invisible reasons). It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, more than looking…seeing. See beyond the political party, beyond religion, beyond the nose on your face.
Do not underestimate the pain of others if you do not feel it. Do not judge the good life of the other, do not condemn the bad life of the other. Don’t be a judge. Let us not judge the one who lacks, as well as the one who exceeds. We are different ships looking to survive. Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy and responsibility.
I like the sentiments in this poem. It does remind us that people across the globe and in our own communities are experiencing the global pandemic in different ways. And even from one week to the next we can feel and experience this time in different ways as the waters move around us.
I was also reminded of last week’s gospel where Matthew gave us the account of Jesus walking towards the disciples across the lake as they held on in fear during a torrential storm (Matthew 14:22-33). It made me think that as Christians we also have faith that Jesus Christ does not leave us alone in our own boats to make our own way but that in the midst of our storms, our fears and anxieties he walks towards us. And it made me think about our Church’s preferential option for the poor, which means that we look out for those who are being tossed about in the seas and who do not have safety jackets, life rafts and hulls to store emergency supplies. For me knowing that we are not all in the same boat calls me back to these two things: I do believe that the Lord, Jesus, does come to us across the waters in all sorts of ways and I pray that we have ears and eyes to see him. I also know that many people in our community are living out the option for the poor and in so many ways reaching out to one another in friendship and compassion.
We are not all in the same boat, but we do have a shared humanity, an inviolable human dignity and a Christian moral imperative to look out for each other, particularly the most vulnerable.