When I was cross-country ski coach at Homer Middle School, at some point before the first race we’d focus several practice sessions on the downhill run. A skier who isn’t one of the stronger climbers can make up considerable distance on those leading a race if they’re more capable and confident on the descent. One situation we’d discuss was what to do when you’re on the downhill run and you see a rough spot coming up on the trail that you begin to fear will throw you off balance.
I’d share how I deal with those situations by saying something like, I don’t allow my mind and eyes to get locked on the rough spot because I’d be more likely to fall. I note it mentally and move on. I keep my focus ahead on the trail. My body seems to know what to do when I ski over the challenge area. Always mentally ski ahead of where your feet are.
I don’t allow my mind and eyes to get locked on my immediate responsibilities to coronavirus either. I note them by staying informed, social distancing, washing my hands more often, and trying to stay healthy and positive, but my main focus is on the trail ahead. What I’ve found most helpful in maintaining that focus is to pray. My prayers touch on different aspects and one is for those in leadership. In my worldview God is ultimately in control. If he can turn the heart of a king (Proverbs 21.1) he can direct those making decisions.
I also find it very helpful to stay focused ahead if I mentally try to define what I believe is the highest priority as we discuss when to return to economic and social interactions we’re used to.
Most of us have heard the admonitions, “Be safe,” and “Safety first.” It’s good to be safe. It’s a high priority. But I’ve come to understand more clearly it can never be the highest alone.
The highest priority is to be strong. What I mean by being strong starts with courage and resilience that isn’t ruled by unreasonable fear. Being strong includes being safe. All who’ve been strong, at least for long, have also been generally safe. Some may argue one can’t be strong unless they’re safe first. Since I’d counter that being safe is ultimately an adult’s own responsibility, it follows strong people have intelligence, intuition and wisdom, to recognize danger. The elderly and very young are quite to completely dependent on guidance and/or protection from strong adults. I’d argue one has to be strong first.
It may be that being safe and being strong are of equal importance. I’m hesitant to fully commit to that, since in my definition being strong includes being safe, but do believe however the two compare it’s not good to consider being safe as the highest priority alone. When being safe is the highest priority alone than it’s much easier for unreasonable fear to trip you.
Strong people generally sense when others really care about them even if they don’t share the same degree of concern and often express gratitude to those who sincerely care. They’re not necessarily individuals with good or great physical health. Those struggling with health issues can still demonstrate tremendous emotional and spiritual strength. The strength I’m referring to can be lived out in children. It isn’t something found only in the adult world.
Being strong is a balancing act. A strong person will protect their own health but not selfishly. They recognize the importance of staying strong collectively.
I don’t want to imply our collective strength is best based on consumer aggression. I think we could improve our national character in the way of being good stewards. We can all gain from reminders to save and prepare for future uncertainties. I like when stores are closed on Sunday. But however the economic situation develops when we return to a more normal flow I think it’s very important to remember strong people want to be active, creative, self-reliant, industrious, and participating economically is part of it.
We’re also strong in the collective sense because of healthy social interactions. Most of us miss our previous close community connections. I recently dreamt of dining out at a restaurant, which I’ve typically done only infrequently in the past. I’m likely not the only one who’s had a dream like that in the last week. It’s interesting how something as simple as dining out has become so much more meaningful.
Lord willing it won’t be long.
In the mean time, be strong community, borough, state, and nation!
Be strong and pass it on!
Leonard Miller is a longtime Homer resident.