Covid-19. Just mention it and you feel the tension. What is the right response? Are we doing all we can to stop the spread? Are people taking it seriously? Is the media exaggerating? What’s the big deal anyway…it’s rarely fatal? It’s just the flu, are we going to shut down the world every flu season now? Do I really have to be home with my kids for the next 6 months? Why did everyone buy all the toilet paper?
The opinions are many, the perspectives varied, the reactions heated.
How do we act responsibly and yet not bury ourselves in fear. How do we continue to live well and care for those around us? How do we accept and support decisions made by authorities that may have a negative impact on our economic situation and freedom!? How do we deal with accepting restrictions when we are unlikely to be personally affected by Covid-19 in a detrimental way? Can we do it graciously just to help others?
Our Foster son recently came home upset and told us he has been being bullied. It is a loaded word in the current school environment. Zero tolerance for bullying is a motto tossed about freely. Bullying is not acceptable… ever… for any reason. No one should have to feel unsafe at school, physically or emotionally.
The tension comes into this situation when you try to have a clear definition of what is bullying and what is not. When your friend teases you, you laugh, and maybe even feel loved and accepted. When someone else teases you it can be labeled bullying. When you’re goofing around with your friend and they push you into the locker, or grab your hat off your head and throw it down the hall, you pretend to be angry with them and then head to the Rec Centre together happily. When someone else does it… it is bullying.
We’ve all heard it said, or said it ourselves… “I can say things about my sister/brother/ spouse that are less than flattering but “”Woe to you!” if you do!” The same actions from the perspective of a different relationship changes everything.
So for kids in school bullying is muddy water! Our kids are new to this school. They come wanting to make friends and believe the best in everyone. Kids in school are required to “be nice” to everyone in class and in front of teachers. This gives the illusion that everyone is friends. A child who struggles to comprehend the social cues that guide interactions is at a disadvantage. At face value they are all friends. And what’s a little roughhousing between friends… especially teen boys!
The true tension is who are your friends in the ever changing landscape of school? How do we teach our kids to be wise in reading the intentions of others and yet encourage them to be a friend to everyone? How do we navigate something that was interpreted differently last week when they were friends but isn’t okay this week because they aren’t? How do we help them be strong in the face of teasing or bullying and yet take it seriously when they tell us they have been bullied. Really our actions are judged by the level of relationship.
The reality is that we all should treat people like we want to be treated! Jesus calls us to love others. I believe that means to treat everyone with respect and compassion. Bullying is never respectful or compassionate! Friendship always should be! Let’s model what respect and compassion for everyone looks like for our kids. If your words about someone are not respectful and compassionate you shouldn’t be saying them. If your actions aren’t respectful and compassionate you shouldn’t be doing them.
So what does relationship look like in the midst of Covid-19 and social distancing? Our actions say more about how we love people than our words ever do. We show that we truly love our neighbour (translate that to the others in your community) when we choose to stay home, protect the vulnerable and not go out for non-essentials. We show love in this new reality by reaching out to others and checking on them through whatever means are available. Truly this is a test of relationships! Who will you choose to stay in touch with in the midst of the challenges? What will loving others look like for you when you have a directive to isolate and stay home?
Be good news.
Be someone who eases the tension.
In the midst of the mess