Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Imagine you’re walking down a city street, social-distancing and wearing a mask, when you hear a bunch of screaming and yelling for help. You see strangers up the road waving their hands in the air, desperately calling for people to come quick. As you rush to make your way toward them, you hear the word FIRE. You realize you smell smoke in the air. Then you see it—smoke coming from the third floor of an apartment building. A small crowd is gathered in front of the building, and they’re pointing to a window.
There are two young boys leaning out the window as smoke billows out of it. A man shouts, “C’mon! We have to catch them!” You want to wait—this is crazy! It’s too dangerous. There is so much shouting.
“The fire department is coming!”
“They’re so little!”
“They’ll never make it!”
“Where are the parents?”
“They have to jump!”
The children are coughing and crying. There is so much smoke; there is no time to wait.
It’s an emergency.
More people are rushing to help—neighbors and strangers. There must be twenty people now, standing directly below the window. The older boy holds his little brother by the hands, dangling him out the window. He looks to be about three. “Go ahead, drop him!” someone shouts. “We’ll catch him!” The boy lets go, and the younger one drops onto the small crowd of strangers.
It’s a clumsy catch—more like a body-on-body landing. He is crying, but he appears fine. He didn’t come close to touching the ground. The older boy is scared, but the crowd convinces him to jump. "C'mon! It's your turn!" He is bigger and heavier, but the group of outstretched arms, shoulders, and chests breaks his fall. It is awkward and bumbling, but he seems fine.
The fire truck arrives minutes later and the young children are treated for smoke inhalation. They are reunited with their parents who couldn’t reach them because of the fire. Your adrenaline has worn off, and you realize your shoulder is quite sore. It’s a small price to pay for participating in a miracle. You can’t believe the children weren’t seriously hurt. You silently offer your thanks to God.
Now, my question for you, reader, is: would you have behaved any differently in this scenario? Would you have rushed to help and tried to catch the children? I suspect you would have. I suspect all of us would have tried to help in any way we could.
In the exhilarating moment of an emergency, no one stops to consider their prejudices. No one would stop and think, “Eh, that child is Black” or “That kid is Mexican” or “Those kids probably aren’t American” or “I bet the parents are Democrats” or “They must be Republican” or even, “What if those kids have Covid-19?”
In the course of imagining the hypothetical story, as in any real-life sudden emergency, none of that was relevant. It didn’t occur to you to pause and reflect on whether the children were wearing masks or had Covid-19. While reading, you probably didn’t stop to think about what the children looked like or to which race they belonged. You certainly didn’t stop to think about the political affiliation of the absent parents. Why is that?
Because in an emergency, no one stops to label, discriminate, or draw lines.
We are living in this emergency right now. Sound the alarm, because life as we know it is on fire. Our health and well-being is on fire. Our economy is on fire. Our democracy is on fire. Our sense of racial equality, justice, and fairness is on fire. The list goes on and on.
We are experiencing an emergency, and too many of us don’t realize it. We’re being pitted against one another so we won’t notice everything is actually on fire. There is a lot of screaming and crying going on for sure, but not enough rescuing. There isn’t enough leaping out in faith. There isn't enough trusting each other. There isn’t enough pitching in and helping without hesitation—without drawing lines.
In emergencies like the one we’re experiencing now, we have to let go of our prejudices, our judgements, and our biases. No, I mean really. Let’s just help our fellow humans. Just help. Full stop.
Let’s pull together, gather in and disregard our differences. They aren’t real. The time has come to make quick-thinking decisions based solely on our instinct to save one another. Thanks to Covid-19, we can’t physically come together and link arms right now, at least we probably shouldn’t…but that’s okay. Perhaps it’s more important that we do this metaphorically, metaphysically, and mentally. We must do this in our envisioning, with our hopes, our imagination, thoughts, and beliefs.
In your mind, can you go to a place where we recognize our oneness, unity, and mutual love of life? Can you envision a world that works for everyone, where all citizens, no matter their color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc., thrive freely? Can you imagine a time when basic needs are met with community love, support, and involvement? Can you believe in your heart that the pandemic will end and our health and wholeness will flourish again?
I can. I challenge you to spend a few moments each day thinking about this.
Imagine it. Believe it. Live your life from it.
P.S. This blog is based on an actual news event that occurred recently in France. A crowd of strangers rescued two small children from an apartment fire by catching them after they jumped from the building. Both children survived and were not hurt in the incident. The mayor of the town called the rescue "heroic."