I like Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press. I often read his column and the articles he writes. He is a gifted writer and I have learned much, I think, about writing by reading him. One of the things I appreciate most about him is the relative “even-handedness” he attempts to exhibit in politically charged issues. There are times I strenuously disagree with his perspective and then there are times I strenuously agree. But mostly, I find agreement with him in perspectives on culture, society, and life in general. But not always.
In In his column on Sunday, April 5th, 2020, he writes to encourage people to find a cause to which they can give themselves during this pandemic. He writes to forestall the worst in us, the hoarding, the stomping on others, the turning on one another… to which he gives anecdotal evidence currently seen in our society. We need, he says, to find something to moor us in this big war (some are calling it WW-C). He writes, “We are on our own here. No pamphlet will arrive, no law will be passed. Our contentment and inner calm rests in our own sense of appreciation. One thing. One small idea in the big war. I have found mine. Let me share it with you.”
Mitch then goes on to tell us about a little 8-year-old Haitian boy named Knox. You see, Mitch, among his other attributes, is a genuine humanitarian. He became involved in Haiti after the devastating earthquake there in 2010. Subsequently, he began an orphanage there about which he sometimes writes. Currently there are 52 children sheltered and loved there. One of them is Knox who comes to the U.S. every three months for treatments for a severe brain injury he suffered at the age of one. His most recent visit came just before the coronavirus shutdown in both Haiti and the U.S. As a result, Knox is now staying with the Abloms in their suburban Detroit home for the “duration”.
Mitch goes on to regale us with the heartwarming daily interaction with Knox and how it has been a balm to their souls. This has become the “one thing…the one small idea” that has tended to mitigate the terrible truth that is COVID-19. It is truly sweet and inspirational. I give Mitch and his wife/family huge kudos for this undertaking which, he implies, has been their “salvation” in this crisis. I think I understand what he is trying to say. He is saying that if we find no “light” during this darkness and all we do is “swim in those sad waters, we will lose sight of any shore. We will drift into people we don’t recognize and do things we never thought we would do.” Read that little quote again. It is powerful. It is excellent writing. And he is right.
I wanted to say that before I go on. I in no way want to disparage Mitch, his humanitarian efforts, his obvious love for Knox, and the gist of what he is saying. I agree with the “gist”. I would modify the focus. I agree with the premise that during this pandemic, we all need to be able to find that “cause” which can mitigate the hardship, sorrow, angst, and the worst human tendencies in a crisis. But that cause can’t be Knox, as sweet as that boy seems to be. It cannot be our humanitarianism, as clearly as Mitch displays it. It must be Christ.
Here is where, I feel, Mitch and I would disagree. His focus for a cause to get through the Pandemic, is a person, Knox. Or perhaps, more broadly, his humanitarianism. He says, “our humanity saves us” in one of his headings. Now, as good as these things may be, they are temporal. What would happen to Mitch’s sustaining “one thing” during this pandemic if Knox, God forbid, got the virus and died? What if his “one thing”; his “one small idea in the big war” somehow rejected his overtures of love? What if he was not so sweet, and good-natured, and cuddly so as to warm the cockles of the heart? Or conversely, what if little Knox grows up to be everything Mitch could ever want him to be and more. And the day comes when Mitch dies, and Knox dies… what then? What meaning does the “one idea” have in terms of eternity if- IF – one does not know the God of eternity through Jesus Christ? Am I saying Mitch does not know Christ salvifically? I do not know. I’m just saying if the “one thing” is this boy, this boy can be taken away. Christ, rightly understood and trusted, can never be taken away from us. Mitch put our salvation during this time in our humanity. But is this “one (humanitarian) thing” we focus on to get us through this pandemic and the rest of life, sufficient for eternity?
Now, please do not take this as harsh criticism of Mitch and all he is doing. He is putting to shame many of us in terms of his compassionate work. It is not to say that what he is doing is to be in any way downplayed. But it is to say, we can get to the same place through Christ and it will have impact in both time and eternity. We perhaps should be doing what Mitch is doing, through Christ. Because if we are doing it with “Christ as the thing…with Christ as the cause that get’s us through the pandemic” … we have a “one thing” that can never die, diminish, or be tarnished. That will see us through the next crisis, and the one after that! That will see us through the rest of life. That will see us through all eternity.
So, let’ be inspired by Mitch’s article and what Mitch is doing. All I’m saying is that in making Christ “the one thing…the idea” … we will not only be affecting things that are temporal, but things that are eternal. When this is all over…not just this pandemic but all of life… our eternity is all that is going to matter.