These days, I have been thinking about the Israelites wandering in the desert for years. The exhilaration of escaping from Egypt and Pharaoh’s chariots and charioteers must have worn off pretty quickly when they found themselves baking in unrelenting sun by day, freezing at night and thirsty all the time. I wonder if the cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night were much consolation when they were weary, hungry and the inevitable bickering that comes with being too long with too many grew by the day. I cannot fathom how whole generations spent their entire lives wandering, following a leader who clearly had no idea where they were going.
As we face the unknown, tagged this time with the dubious name COVID-19, there is a growing need to know, how long will this last? How long will our lives be upended by restrictions our generations have never experienced? How long before we find a cure, a vaccine, a medication something we, who are so powerful, successful, accomplished in every way, are expected to know or discover or make. How long before our government stops the endless tennis matches—or is it prize fights?—over everything that needs to be done?
Americans are not alone in our national impatience, but we might well be a little more impatient than many peoples whose lives have never been as comfortable as ours. Many of us have little experience with denial of what we think is our due. We give new meaning to the word “entitlement,” some more than others. Immigrants for centuries have risked their lives to come to a place where they hope and believe they will be able to live a healthy, free and productive life. It doesn’t take long for their children and their children’s children to believe they are entitled to that life.
Pandemics have a long history in this world, and we know from that history that they do end. Someday, perhaps only after several “surges” of this disease, we will conquer it. Our lives will never be the same, but we will go on. And what will we have learned? How will our lives be different? How will this dreadful time in our lives generate something worth all this suffering?
This is an opportunity, now when it is all fresh and still painful, not just a blip in the great chronicle of human life as it will be 100 years from now. Can we envision the people we really want to be? Can we muster the courage and conviction to make that vision real? Only then will we have a chance to find our Promised Land.