Normal Never Was

I hear a lot of us saying: ‘I’m tired and I want life to get back to normal’.  I get that.  If normal means going to my local coffee shop, being with friends and family, going to school and church, taking a vacation, being employed….then, yes, I want that too.

Yet, I think this difficult time provides and opportunity for us to think about what we want a post-pandemic life to look like.  Do we really want to go back to normal?

What if what was normal wasn’t all that great?

Is it normal that the 30 million Americans who lost their jobs in the past month, many of whom get health care through their employer, no longer have health care? Is it normal that millions more who have health care can’t afford to seek care because their deductibles and copays are too high?

Is it normal that those we call heroes during this pandemic (those who sanitize our hospitals, pick up our trash, stock our shelves, deliver our packages) too often, don’t have paid sick leave?  Or don’t make enough income to survive on one job?

Is it normal that an EMT named Jason in NYC, works 7 days a week, 14 hour shifts and falls in bed at night worried for those he treated that day.  And worries whether he will wake up with the virus, knowing that he doesn’t have health care because it costs too much?

Is it normal that we lack a robust public health care system? Or, that our government rolls back protections for the environment, that we all depend upon for life?

Is that the normal we want to return to?

In the Navajo religion, the purpose of a life well lived is to learn to walk in harmony. To walk in harmony with the Creator, with one’s neighbors, with creation and with oneself.

What can it look like for us, individually and as a society, to walk in harmony?

Sonya Renee Taylor, a poet, author, activist offers these prophetic words:

We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return my friends…We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment.  One that fits all of humanity and nature.

What do you think? Are you ready to stitch a new garment?

To create a new way of living and being informed by our values.  Built upon the truth that we are mutually dependent.  This pandemic has stripped away the illusion and myth that we are self-made, independent, islands unto oneself.

It’s not true. It never was.

Jesus cut to the chase: ‘Whatever you do (or don’t do) unto the most vulnerable, you do (or don’t do) unto me’ (Matthew 25:40).

Dream with me of a new normal:

Where access to health care is a basic human right.  Where quality affordable health care is accessible to everyone.

Where workers receive a livable wage.  So that a mom or dad doesn’t have to work 2 – 3 jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table.  Who at the end of the day, has enough energy to read to their child at bedtime.

Where clean water and air is considered a sacred trust. Where citizens insist on policies that ensure the health and well being of all.

Where no one is considered illegal or less than. Rather, Imago Dei, created in the Image of God, each person with inherent worth.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going back to normal.  Normal never was.

Richard Rohr, the Franciscan monk and activist puts it this way:

I wonder what we will be like after this pandemic? But I really don’t want to get back to normal.  I hope that in facing my fear and anger and learning new ways of being in relationship, there will arise within me, a more willing spirit to embrace ‘us’ rather than ‘me’.

What new normal can arise from this moment in history?  What new garment can we stitch together?

Truly, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  The promise of a new normal, rests with us.

May it be so.

13 thoughts on “Normal Never Was

  1. Peter Dumas

    Wonderfully said Kent. I pray that this pandemic results in the greater good and a better human race, but I fear that we’re instead heading towards something else completely. Stay safe and well my friend!

  2. John DeNardo

    Good article my friend. It is a bit scary to reimagine, to stitch the new garment. There’s that proverb: as a dog returns to its vomit… Is that what we really want? Thanks for this.

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