In Times of Trouble, Am I the Person I Want to Be?
I was talking to a friend the other day on the phone. We were talking about the surrealness of life right now as the threat of COVID-19 looms over us.
We are both considered “high-risk.” My friend is 70 years old and has some underlying health issues. I’m only 36, but I have cerebral palsy. Although I’m generally healthy and take care of myself, my lungs are vulnerable. Since COVID-19 manifests itself as a respiratory disease, there is some cause for concern. If I got pneumonia, it would be a rough road ahead.
Despite this, I am not overly worried or panicked. I am taking the same precautions we all are right now. I’m hunkering down until this thing passes. I’m practicing some deep breathing exercises to keep my lungs in shape. And I’m trying to navigate this time of uncertainty wisely.
About halfway through our conversation, my friend hit me with a profound question.
He said, “Take a look in the mirror, Michael. Are you who you want to be?”
My friend was using this time to take stock of life and challenging me to do the same. We don’t know how much time we have left on this earth. And we never did. Are we the people we want to be?
My Honest Answer
I thought about his question for a moment.
My honest answer? No, I’m not the person I want to be. And I don’t think I ever will be this side of eternity. But I’m doing my best to move toward that person. Every day, I’m fighting to become a little more like him.
I don’t know when my number will be up. But when it is, I want to know I used my time here to its fullest.
If there was ever a time to step into the shoes of the person I want to be, it’s now, in the midst of chaos.
If there was ever a time to choose kindness over selfishness, to be more patient with the people I love, to be more compassionate to strangers I meet, it’s now.
Let Fear Spur Us On to Love
Earlier I said I’m not overly worried. But that doesn’t mean fear doesn’t grip me now and then. When I see some of the images on the news, it’s hard not to let my mind wander to dark places and worst-case scenarios.
A few days ago, my wife confessed she had some fear about how the Coronavirus would affect me if I contracted it. She knows how bad it could be for me.
I told her it was okay to be afraid. I’m not going to tell my wife she shouldn’t feel her feelings.
But I hope fear will spur us on to love. I want my fear to drive me toward the person I want to be, not away from him.
I want to be the kind of person who loves my wife well. I want to be the kind of person who appreciates her and doesn’t take one moment with her for granted.
I want to be the kind of person who checks on neighbors and friends. I want to be the kind of person who gives instead of hordes, who trusts instead of cynically scoffs.
“Take a look in the mirror, Michael. Are you who you want to be?”
No, I’m not. But every day I wake up is a gift. Every day my fragile lungs fill with air is an opportunity to look in the mirror and take a step closer to that person.
On some days, I’ll fail. I’ll revert back to life as usual. Or I’ll let fear drive me to selfishness. I’ll be concerned about my problems and not give two rips about anyone else’s.
But as long as there’s breath in my lungs, there’s time to change course. There’s time to start walking back to the person I want to be. There’s still time to love. There’s still time to choose kindness. I pray for the grace to do that.
What About You?
Take a look in the mirror. Are you the person you want to be?
It’s okay if you’re not. I don’t think anyone is. Not entirely, anyway. We’re all on this journey, so let’s use this time to take stock of our lives.
What would the person you want to be, do in these times?
How would they love? Who would they forgive? How would they treat their family and friends? How would they treat strangers?
As long as there’s breath in your lungs, it’s not too late to take a step toward that person.