Minister's Corner: We're all in this together — really!

Chaplain Bill Simpson
Supervisor of pastoral/spiritual care

Remember at the beginning of the pandemic how we used to hear, “We’re all in this together?” We didn’t really know just what was headed our way, but we knew we all faced a common foe in COVID. Sure, some thought the response was overblown. For the most part, though, those thoughts were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for one another, especially those “essential workers.” We knew that, without each other, none of us were going to get through the pandemic well. We understood that we were “all in this together!”

It doesn’t seem we hear that so much this time around, though, does it? Somewhere along the way we’ve managed to divide into “camps” and not only disagree, but actively disparage and ridicule one another. Clearly, we’re NOT “all in this together” anymore.

There are plenty of reasons, I think. One of the biggest is probably the anxiety and stress of living through something so new to most of us. Sure, there have been pandemics, but not in this country in most of our lifetimes, and certainly not on the scale of the COVID pandemic. Not knowing what’s going to happen, or when, creates stress, even in the calmest and most stable among us. That stress, in turn, can lead us to hold tightly to what we know - or think we know.

The result is what we’re seeing now. Those who are inclined to be trusting (or “gullible,” according to some) will tend to trust. Those inclined toward suspicion (what others might call “paranoia”) will tend to distrust. Add to that the human tendency to listen most closely to those voices and opinions that align with our own (something called “confirmation bias”), and you have a recipe for divisions and boundaries and heightened conflict. It’s the complete opposite of “We’re all in this together.”

The hard truth, though, is that we ARE all in this together, whether we like it or not. What I choose has a direct impact, not only on me, but on those around me, too. Your decisions affect others around you, and this isn’t just happenstance. The truth is, God created us for community. He designed us to work best when we work with others, not in isolation or incessant opposition.

If you don’t believe it, take a look at the Ten Commandments. The first three address our relationship with God, while the fourth (“Honor your father and mother”) addresses family. The remaining six commandments address various aspects of our relationships with those around us. They form the foundation of how God intends for us to live together in community.

To be sure, there are plenty of things on which to disagree - masks, vaccines, lockdowns, and the list goes on. And if we each allow our emotions to lead us, the lines of division will only deepen. But that is not how or why we were made. We are designed to live and work together. What we aren’t designed to do is to take the easy way every time. God never intended for us to pull back from everyone else (or anyone who disagrees with us) and live sheltered lives. NO. God created us to live in community, working together for the common good.

Here at SSM Health, our mission statement makes our purpose very clear – Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God. We can neither deliver “exceptional health care services” nor “reveal the healing presence of God” if we can’t live and work in community with one another. And the same principle holds true on a community, state, national, even global level.

So, let me challenge all of us – Take a deep breath, and humbly approach someone who has a different

perspective. Show them that, despite your differences, you honestly care about them and want to live and work in community with them.

Together, we can be so much more. That’s our challenge, and it’s why we were made. How will we respond?