Letters I won't send

I frequently say to my wife, “If I were going to write a letter, which I am not, this is what I would say.” It is a kind of mental exercise in which I express frustration or even anger without running the risk of hurting someone else’s feelings. I’m not one to write letters to the editor or even many letters to politicians, but sometimes I need to get something off of my chest. So today a couple of letters that I will never send.

Dear Mayor Allender,

While I understand your desire to provide leadership in a time of crisis and to help our community stay ahead of the coronavirus epidemic, I want to point out a problem with your rhetoric. You keep putting churches in the same category with theaters and casinos when you refer to “unnecessary businesses.” With your background in law enforcement, I would have thought that you would understand the need for spiritual health as well as physical health. I know that police departments often emphasize physical health and don’t pay attention to spiritual health, but when they forget spiritual health, they have problems with high attrition and disengaged officers. I also know that there are some churches in our community that are primarily in the entertainment business. They put on a good show every Sunday and are popular and growing. However, the primary business of a church is not entertainment. The success of a church is not measured in the size of the crowd. Churches exist for service to others. We tend to the spiritual health of our members and reach out with concern to serve the spiritual health of the community. We are seeking to be responsible and to follow social distancing guidelines. But just because we have temporarily ceased large group gatherings doesn’t mean we are out of business. Don’t you know where hungry children are getting meals now that the schools are closed? Don’t you understand who provides the food for Church Response? Have you no idea who is strengthening essential workers by holding them in our prayers? Have you forgotten where people turn when death occurs? If we are facing a life and death crisis, you really don’t want to proceed without faith, dear mayor. History has proven time and time again that when governments try to close churches, faith is stronger than official orders.

There. I got that off of my chest. Now one more. Yesterday I listened to part of a radio interview as I was driving. This is what I might write to the guest on that show.

Friend,

While I appreciate you concern for the older citizens of your community and am grateful that you are at least showing some compassion, I must protest your condescending attitude. Just because you are young and healthy and not a member of an “at risk” group in this particular health crisis, it doesn’t mean the you and others of your age are somehow better informed than those who are older. When you characterize those who read paper newspapers as technologically illiterate and lacking the latest information, I need to remind you that Bill Gates will turn 65 this year. Had he lived, Steve Jobs would also be 65. The technologies, both hardware and software that you use are based on the ideas of the people you call senior citizens. Who do you think wrote the base code? Who doe you think deigned the systems? Just because you can’t remember how your devices came to be doesn’t mean that others don’t understand them. Don’t dismiss elders because they aren’t addicted to their devices as much as you.

While you were binging on watching zombie apocalypse and contagion movies some of your elders were attending the funerals of their peers. It is hard for you to know it now, but we are all mortal. No matter how many rules you make, some people are going to die. Even if we all follow every rule and suggestion and isolate ourselves to the fullest extent possible, this epidemic will result in illness and death. And it is simply true that your elders have more experience with illness and death than you. So don’t dismiss their wisdom just because they speak of service and sacrifice.

You describe young people checking up on their parents and grandparents. I’m sure that there are young people who do and I’m grateful that you have chosen to do so, but in our community there are far more elders delivering meals and essential groceries and checking on their neighbors than 30- and 40-somethings. Among other things, those younger people have never before experienced shortages of goods in stores and lacking that experience are too busy getting their own and hoarding rolls of toilet paper to understand that the best way to endure a real shortage is to share.

I was listening to your interview yesterday as I drove to our church where a team of volunteers spend the morning cutting and splitting firewood so that others could keep warm in cold winter months and spring blizzards at a reduced cost. We practiced social distancing. Chainsaws and wood splitters are loud. An outdoor woodlot provides plenty of space to spread out. This small group of 60- and 70- and 80-somethings were working hard and getting much-needed exercise. Your advice to us to stay home is based on a bit of ignorance about what we do when we go out and what it takes to remain healthy.

It is your choice to deny your children the opportunity to see their grandparents. I understand your fear. But know your decision has consequences. Grandparents passing on wisdom and tradition to grandchildren is as old as humanity itself. Isolation might slow the spread of a virus, but it also slows the growth of community. There is wisdom and experience that you are denying your children by keeping them from contact with elders.

We’ve experienced a lot of death in our years. We’ve said goodbye to friends and family members. We know a bit about grief. It is wisdom that might have value to you when it is your turn to plan a funeral.

I’m not going to send these letters, but writing them has made me feel better.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!