Thursday, April 22, 2021

My Son Has COVID and We Have So Many People to Thank!


My son was diagnosed with Covid earlier this week. I can hear him coughing from his sealed off bedroom as I type. He said he feels like he's played five baseball games straight with only a ten-minute break between each one. His sister is fine for now but is quarantined from school until at least May 6 and I have to stay home from work for the same time. We each have selected a separate part of the home in which to sequester. 

When it comes to my son's diagnosis, let's be honest - there is no way he could have achieved this on his own. We have so many people to thank! Instead of writing each of them individually, I thought I would thank all of them here.

1. Thank you to all of the parents who told their kids that wearing masks at school is pointless and an infringement on freedom. Your kids listened and wore their masks under their noses or even their chins like champs. Special thanks to the parents of the kid who called my son a "liberal" because my son double knotted his masks to make sure they were secure.

2. Thank you to the schools who stopped doing daily temperature and symptom checks a month ago despite the vocal opposition of the school nurses. On a related note, thank you to the parents who sent kids to school with symptoms because they knew the schools no longer were checking. 

3. Thank you to all of the people who don't wear masks while in stores. There are so many of you, but I specifically would like to mention my state representative and my state senator as well as two city council members for their leadership on this detail, as I've seen all of them out shopping without masks. As supposed champions of the private sector, I am surprised that they would be so disrespectful to the posted requests by private business owners. But, hey, my elected officials are full of fun surprises and inconsistencies.

4. Thank you to all of the churches who have welcomed congregants back into crowded auditoriums.  Sure, spreading a highly communicable disease in tight quarters is an interesting twist on the call to love your neighbor, but OK. Special shout out to the church that told those who wanted to wear masks that they could sit by themselves in a separate room and the service would be broadcast to them on a TV. And another special shout out to the church whose members regularly protest outside the women's health clinic in my town but who don't require any masks or social distancing at their services. Being consistent in your pro-life message isn't really needed anyway.

I sat and cried in the clinic when he got diagnosed this week. We mask up indoors. We distance. I haven't hugged my parents in a year and a half. I got teased for sitting away and by myself at the kids' games. So, my tears were those of anger and frustration. I'm mad that my family's health is reliant on others to do the right thing. I mad that friends who have been SO CAREFUL for a year and who have serious health risks in their family also just found out their kids have tested positive due to exposure at school. 

But now that I've gotten those sarcastic notes of appreciation out of the way, I have some genuine thoughts of gratitude to share as we deal with a positive Covid test more than a year into this pandemic.

1. Thank you to those who don't follow Covid protocols . . . really. It has allowed me to have important conversations with my kids about how we should look out for one another and how we are all connected. We have discussed what I expect from them someday as adult members of whatever community in which they choose to live. Think about others. Take care of people. Look what happens when you don't.

2. Thank you for the vaccine. I've only gotten my first dose so far, but that should give me at least 80% protection against Covid. While I'm keeping my son in his own space and we are wearing masks when I need to be near him, at least I know that I'm more safe around him than I would have been a month ago.

3. Thank you to Woodmont Baptist Church for modeling Christian compassion and sense of service to one another over this past year. Woodmont has been my church home since my girl was a baby and although I'm not plugged in like I once was for various reasons, I still love so many of the people there and how they care for our city and continue to care for and check on my family. They waited a long time to reopen, still serving people and worshipping in multiple alternate ways, and even now the church requires masks from the moment you step out of the car and throughout the service. And, families remain distanced from one another in the pews. The result? There has not been a single positive test traced back to the church since the pandemic started. It works.

4. Thank you to the many friends who have offered to bring us groceries or help in any way they can while we are inside and quarantined. The Moore Trio is loved and well cared for. And thank you to the friends and family with whom I've vented and cried over the past few days through calls and texts. It's nice not to feel alone. 

And look, I'm not saying that my son is sick as a direct result of any particular person in my town not wearing a mask to buy groceries. Sometimes people are still getting sick despite the best efforts of everyone around them. And, we haven't been perfect. This pandemic is rough and not over and could strike any one of us. 

But my tears this week stemmed from the fact that my son is one small piece in a much larger collective puzzle we have in our country. They stemmed from resignation to the fact that I can take steps to protect my family but then have to leave the rest in others' hands. I guess it's like that every time my family gets in a car, except that I imagine there aren't multiple other drivers on the interstate voluntarily taking their hands off the wheel or driving with faulty brakes in the vicinity of my kids. As a wise woman with whom I share a lot of DNA said to me this week, humans are a part of an ecosystem with one another and that comes with responsibility. We need to be responsible.

Statistics bear out that my son likely will feel better soon. My daughter avoids her brother as much as possible on most days, so hopefully she is virus-free now and will remain that way. I trust that both kids are getting the schoolwork done that they can at home and will be diligent about getting caught up on the rest when they return. This week and next will be just another part of our experience from this pandemic that we can recount with stories around the table in thirty years. But I would have been just fine without this story to tell. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Church and the Classroom and the Constitution

When I taught at a high school in the same town where I now live in Tennessee, the social studies teacher across the hall from me had a wooden lectern at the front of his classroom and on that lectern sat a large Bible. He would start every class reading Scripture to his students and then giving a five-minute sermon before moving to the social studies lesson for the day. 

At first, I didn't say anything. I was new to the school, new to Tennessee. I was young and didn't look much different than the high school seniors I was teaching. I sometimes got stopped and asked for my hall pass by school security or other teachers who didn't know me. I was lacking gravitas and afraid to ruffle feathers. But before long, I decided that I could not in good conscience teach the Constitution in my room while that was going on right next to me. 

I asked the teacher about this daily ritual he had with his students and he told me this was a Christian town and no one had a problem with it. I then went to the principal, who said to me, "Well, you just like to cause problems, don't you?" Despite this chastisement, I insisted it needed to stop. Before long, both that other teacher and some of the students were referring to me as the "damn Yankee teacher." (To which I responded that Maryland never officially chose a side in the Civil War but that history lesson did not help to persuade people to my cause.) As a government teacher with a room of seventeen-year-old students in front of me, I wanted them to see the relevance that a document that was written more than two centuries ago had on their daily lives and challenge them to think about its application from perspectives other than their own. (Just as I previously had challenged my students back in Maryland when they insisted there was no way that Lincoln could have freed the slaves because he was a Republican.)

More than a decade later, I was now a parent in the same school system and my daughter's elementary school chorus concert was scheduled to take place in a Baptist church down the street from the school building. That was fine, as church facilities often are used for all sorts of community events. But then, the pastor of this church led all assembled guests in a Christian prayer before the concert started. Not OK. I mumbled under my breath not as quietly as I intended, "This is a public school. Does no one else have a problem with this?" I once again spoke with the school principal, who told me that we were guests of the church and the host had a right to welcome us. When I continued to express my concern to others in the community, people told me how sad they were for me and that they would pray for me. 

In the midst of both of these episodes, I was attending church regularly and participating in Bible studies and engaged in an active prayer life. My objections to what was happening in our schools was not out of a desire to stop students from hearing the Bible or words of prayer, but it was because of my passion for our Constitution and the freedoms both for and from religion that it is supposed to afford for all. I mean, the search for religious liberty was a pretty big reason that this country got started in the first place. And guess what? With church membership under fifty percent for the first time in our nation's history, the Constitution is the same document that will continue to protect Christians in their worship and evangelism. 

These past incidents were on my mind this morning because I still worry that many powerful voices in our communities, from elected officials to school administrators to civic and religious leaders, don't do enough to protect the minority viewpoints, which is the most important reason the First Amendment exists. 

I imagine there are those who would assert that people just should move away if they don't like the integration of the Bible and prayer into the local public school system. It's the old "love it or leave it" approach, which I've always found to be one of the most un-American phrases there is. American history and progress and leadership almost always has been built on agitating and pushing and questioning the status quo. After all, we are still and always striving to be a "more perfect Union." And I love my home and my neighbors and my friends, including the Christians and Hindus and Muslims and atheists who live on and around my block and whose kids sit in class with my children. 

When we really value the Constitution and our founding principles, we need to remember that our most ardent calls to protect freedoms must come in defense of those with whom we disagree. It does not matter if 90% of those around us hold the same beliefs and are comfortable with whatever may be occurring. Because someday, you might need those marginalized individuals who you once dismissed as holding a minority opinion to protect and fight for you. 

"In republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority," - James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, spoken at the Virginia Convention in 1829