Month: May 2020


Sabbath provides sanctuary from a pandemic’s rage. Sabbath brings healing waters to burning cities. Sabbath reminds us in our pain and brokenness that we are connected. Sabbath reveals that what we most fear is already on our side of the wall of certainty that we built.

Sabbath breaks us free from all that weighs us down. Sabbath steps away from the immediate to shine light or gain perspective. Sabbath infuses hope and purpose amid chaos and confusion. Sabbath is the court jester that gives the king space to laugh at his own absurdity.

In the spirit of Sabbath–a time apart–I invite you to enjoy these diversions, or reminders:

If you felt like you wasted some time this week, it probably didn’t take as much time as it did to build the “Swish Machine.”

If you ever stress over the complexities of a relationship, or how the federal budget works, the “Rope Trick” may give you permission to just “let it be.”

If you ever doubt that you are worth being loved, or that you are capable of loving, just enjoy the relationship between Titan and Indie.

Lindy’s experience

Following yesterday’s post, I intended to offer some humorous reflections about “toxic masculinity.” Instead, I’m sharing part of our daughter’s update about our son-in-law Michael’s excellent recovery from lung transplant surgery. They’re temporarily in an apartment near the hospital and take daily prescribed walks at various public parks. Her otherwise upbeat report to family and friends included the sad reflection below:

Aggressive & rude behavior.  Michael and I are sick and tired of the verbal assaults we are receiving for wearing our masks in public.  It happens almost daily.  It’s happening in Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Homewood and all over.  Our decision to wear a mask does not in any way harm or affect anyone else in society.  However, the amount of people that feel the need to confront us over it is sickening! 

We are doing this for his health and mine and for those around us.  I do not want to get on a soap box and preach but Michael’s life is literally at stake.  I realize that some people disagree with the science & the public health officials and are choosing to not wear masks or keep a proper social distance.  That is their choice.  But, Michael and I should not be subjected to aggressive behaviors just because those people in society choose to not wear a mask. 

We have been flipped off, walked into, glared at, confronted and had numerous sarcastic and aggressive things said to us — all because we were wearing masks.  Michael and I may not look like we are part of the vulnerable population but we both are.  And, I know many of you reading this are too or have someone close to you that is.  None of us should have to accept aggressive behavior over the choice to protect ourselves & our community.  Again, it’s not just because Michael had surgery but because his life-long medications cause him to have a non-existent immune system. The common cold could put Michael in the hospital & Covid19 would definitely kill him.

I truly hope people will start thinking of their actions when they venture out in public.  Just because the viruses are invisible and just because many people’s diseases and disorders are invisible does not give anyone the right to confront and abuse people wearing masks. I can’t even believe we’re having to deal with this issue at all!!  It has given us both a lot of unnecessary anxiety. It started off gradual but it seems each week the level of confrontation and aggression is worsening.  It frightens me because there is no need for it. 

Yesterday, when I asked Lindy if I could share her experience, she replied: I was unsure of sending my rant but Michael wanted me to.  We’ve actually had some nice walks without incident in downtown Birmingham the last two days but the negative ones definitely impact us more.

Not cool, a sign of weakness

The title of a May 16 article by Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian was: “Men are less likely to wear masks–another sign that toxic masculinity kills.”

Ms. Mahdawi cited an article by Anagha Srikanth in The Hill entitled “Men less likely to wear face masks because they’re ‘not cool’ and ‘a sign of weakness’ says study.” The subtitle was “‘Toxic masculinity’ is putting men at risk of getting coronavirus, new research shows.”

This research was by London’s Middlesex University and Berkeley’s Mathematical Science Research Institute. A report of the survey of 2,459 people in the US was written by Valerio Capraro and Hélène Barcelo, entitled “The effect of messaging and gender intentions to wear a face covering to slow down COVID-19 transmission.”

This must be an era of long titles and subtitles.

The final sentence of the report’s abstract was: “Men more than women agree that wearing a face covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma; and these gender differences also mediate gender differences in intentions to wear a face covering.”

This raises a question for men: Is wearing a mask not cool, a sign of weakness? Or, is “toxic masculinity” not cool, a sign of weakness? More about that in tomorrow’s post.

From the Boston Globe, May 27, 2020, “Trump’s refusal to wear a mask is helping politicize a crucial tool for fighting virus,” by Liz Goodwin, photo by Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Setting an example

I know it’s odd. One way I relax is to listen to quarterly earnings calls, where management reviews the quarter and fields questions from analysts. On Saturday night, Cathey came into the room and saw me in a daze. She said, “What is it?” I said, “Let me read you something inspirational.”

Camden Property Trust leases apartments to 80,000 residents across the Sun Belt. When the coronavirus hit, they gave 350 grants to employees that totaled over $1 million. They gave $2,000 bonuses to frontline employees that totaled $3 million. They provided $10.4 million in grants to 8,200 of their residents.

CFO Alex Jarrett said, “…very quickly getting the folks the money … put a zip in the step of our employees. And even residents that didn’t apply for the grant … sent us … thousands of congratulatory e-mails, saying (things like) ‘No, I don’t need the money. But I understand now why I live at Camden. And as long as I’m a renter, I’ll be with you.’

“So, to me, this is our way to say to the industry, and the corporate world in general: ‘These are the right things you should do.’ … multiple companies followed our lead.

“… I spoke with probably 10 different companies (about) how we did it and why we did it …. So to me, it really is about the long game. And it’s about being a good corporate citizen to your community and your customer.”

Hyman, Arnott & Miller

I’m comparing the words of three savvy economists with the stock market’s optimism, which seems fueled by hope for a quick treatment and vaccine.

In a May 22 interview on WealthTrack, Rob Arnott gave a dour view: “We will see more bankruptcies than we’ve seen since the Great Depression. … We’re not in a recession. We’re in a depression and …. I think it’s going to be three to four years before we’re back to the per capita GDP levels that we had just a few weeks ago.”

In a May 15 interview on WealthTrack, Ed Hyman was more upbeat: “…. there probably will be many, many bankruptcies and more layoffs…. But, there will be an end to this. … there’s a chance we will get a therapeutic and there’s a good chance we get a vaccine. … (maybe) the end of this year as opposed to the end of next year.”

In a May 24 article about “The Great Reopening,” Jeff Miller wrote: “There will be a rebound in cases over the next month. … the overall (health) impact could be significant. … the economic effects will be substantial. We have missed the chance for a ‘U-shaped’ (economic) recovery. Expect a (stock market) rebound followed by another decline – a ‘W.'”

The New York Times has an interactive tracker (below) that shows the daily number of cases and deaths by state and county. Alabama didn’t follow the guidelines for “flattening the curve,” so our numbers are going up.

Our economic recovery depends on mitigating the spread of the virus, which requires science-based public policy and the will and discipline of the public to mask and maintain distancing for as long as it takes.

Faith: science over politics

A sizable portion of the population believes there is a divide between faith and science. Some pastors and congregations have defied recent stay-at-home orders by holding large gatherings for worship, believing that God will protect them from this or any other virus.

Some of those who do not draw a sharp distinction between faith and science are troubled by government intrusion in matters of worship. In California, 1,200 or more pastors plan to defy stay-at-home orders and hold worship services on Sunday, May 31. I believe in freedom of religion and I believe the government has a duty to protect community health. This is a good case study for a class on constitutional law.

Some faith leaders (wisely, in my opinion) see this not as a question of faith vs. science, but rather science vs. politics. I want to be part of a faith community that listens to the best wisdom of medical science rather than what is politically popular at the moment. We need congregations to set a science-based example for the larger community, even if political leaders choose not to set good examples.

From the Washington Post, “Reopening guidance for churches delayed after White House and CDC disagree”

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I want my patriotic energy to help make America safe from the coronavirus. One way to be patriotic today is to wear a mask in public and stay 6 feet apart in public. We honor those who gave their lives for us by protecting those who are still living.

It seems ridiculous that this even needs to be said, but it does. If I find myself in a situation on Memorial Day where someone questions why I’m wearing a mask, I’ll appeal to his or her patriotism by saying, “It’s a simple way to show our respect for those who died at Normandy or Iwo Jima.”

It might not work but at least it would give us an opportunity to have a good conversation about what it means to be patriotic, to love our country, and to respect and protect others from the possibility that I might have the virus. It also encourages others to wear a mask.

The same principle applies to masking and physical distancing as an expression of one’s faith. I’ll say more about that tomorrow.

From MarketWatch

Brothers and sisters

The bar for being “down to earth” was set by Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). He was earthy, simple and had a contagious sense of humor. The connected words humor, humility, humus and human remind us that we are all connected to each other and to all creation.

He was totally at home in his skin. Ilia Delio, a student of Francis, said “the earth became his home and all creatures his brothers and sisters. That led him to love and respect the world around him and made him truly a man of peace.” That’s fresh air for the world’s brokenness.

Francis laughed easily and often at himself. He would have enjoyed what happened last week. One morning I moved his statue from the place it occupied for many years so he could help us direct traffic. That afternoon, when the dogs and I went for our afternoon walk, Friar did a double-take as we approached Friar Francis.

He seemed to say, “What’s Frank doing over here?” Perhaps to make sure it was his old friend, he straightway sniffed his face with Reba alongside.


Brother Francis

Our gravel, sloped driveway forks to form a circular loop. If you bear to the right, the slope is steeper. If you bear to the left, there’s less chance your vehicle tires will spin in the loose gravel. Most drivers bear to the right.

At a thrift store several years ago I saw a metal sign pointing to the left with the message, “This Way.” British, perhaps. I realized it would be a good driveway directional sign.

Not being one to rush into things, the sign has been in our basement for several years. I’ve kept it dusted, always reminding myself to fasten it to the tree that stands sentry over the driveway.

A few days ago I realized that our small statue of Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) and the arrow were made for each other. So now, Brother Francis stands in front of the tree, greeting friends and delivery truck drivers.

So far, everyone has gone to the right anyway. That’s okay. It took me awhile to figure it out, too.


Each day we learn about new dimensions of our health crisis, the economic ramifications of the coronavirus, and various dysfunctions of government.

I hope to live long enough to look back on this era with a smile, a chuckle, and an occasional belly laugh that brings tears of laughter.

In normal times we need several doses of humor each day. In this era, we need a double-dose of daily humor.

So, as part of my personal therapy, beginning tomorrow, each Saturday post will be devoted to humor. I hope you will find some therapy in it, too.

One of my favorite forms of art is the editorial cartoon. Theo Moudakis expresses that art for the Toronto Star. After hearing Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed describe their current coronavirus surge and shortage of ICU beds, I remembered Theo Moudakis’ recent tragicomic cartoon: