“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I put my hope in your words. My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.” –Psalm 119.147,148
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away for you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the past of your feet, and all your ways will be sure” –Proverbs 4.23-26
I struggle to find the balance between hope and distraction.
Asking someone not to dwell on a global pandemic is kind of like asking them to divert their gaze entirely. I understand the advice to not let it consume you or to find helpful distractions. I think what people mean when they say things like that is, don’t despair.
Yet, hope is the antidote to despair. Utterly distracting ourselves is a way to reduce hope to something like having faith in destiny.
The John Mayer debate
I know this is a hot take, but this passive hopefulness is why I still cannot stand John Mayer. “Waiting on the World to Change” is such a garbage idea and a garbage song. I have never been able to recover anything positive knowing that he wrote it. I know everyone makes mistakes, but I can be petty. Annie and I probably don’t disagree about anything more than our feelings about Mr. Mayer.
Keep on waiting, pal!
Saints and the city
Last fall Stu Johnston dropped by my office one Sunday to drop off a book. It was Wright Thompson’s The Cost of These Dreams. When Stu drops a book by your office, you read it.
It was brilliant. It would be a great quarantine read if you like sports journalism. Not so much of a distraction as an inspiration. Thompson is probably the greatest active sports journalist. He has a way of using sports as a character to reveal something true about humanity. If you want a sampling, he just wrote something for ESPN.
The book was a collection of Thompson’s pieces throughout the years. My favorite chapter was the one on Michael Jordan and the realization of his mortality. I am a lifelong Bulls fan. However, the best piece was an incredibly long feature on the relationship between the New Orleans Saints and the city of New Orleans. If you want to check it out you can google search, Beyond the Breach Wright Thompson.
Make sure you have an hour and a box of tissues. I hope to share something about that article that might encourage you not to look away. Also, I know times are different for most of us. Yet, I think even in difficult times it is important to remember that the ability to look away is a privilege.
Into the center of the storm
In the article, Thompson references the relationship between the head coach, Sean Payton, and the longtime Saints quarterback, Drew Brees.
Payton took the Saints coaching job five months after Katrina. He signed Drew Brees when there were doubts that he would ever be able to throw a football again. Brees was coming off potentially career-ending shoulder surgery.
The Saints were competing against the Dolphins to sign Brees. So, Payton flew Brees and his family to New Orleans and met him at the airport. The coach didn’t know the city very well. He got lost trying to show Brees around and ended up in what Thompson describes as a “war zone.”
They drove through some of New Orleans’s poorest neighborhoods, closest to where the levees broke. Katrina had devastated these neighborhoods. Thompson writes, “Instead of felling repelled, (The Brees family) felt called.
“They didn’t move to the suburbs like most players and coaches, instead rehabbing a big white house in Uptown, near St. Charles.”
Coach Payton had a nice place in the suburbs. A place where he could divert his eyes from the community most intensely affected by the natural catastrophe. Then, he sold his place. He moved into the city like Brees.
A real trophy
After the Saints won the Superbowl, Brees’ neighbors didn’t gift him a glass of fine wine. Instead, he had a six-pack of light beer on his front walk with a note that read, “My family lost everything in August 2005. Last night you and our beloved boys gave us everything back.”
Brene Brown reminds us, “maybe looking away is about privilege. I need to think harder and longer about my choices and recognize that choosing who I see and whom I don’t see is one of the most hurtful functions of privilege.”
Brown spent most of what she calls her “formative years” in New Orleans.
Brees recently announced he would be donating $5 million to the state of Louisiana. I am not sure if his refusal to move out of the city and divert his eyes has had anything to do with his constant philanthropic efforts in New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.
Honestly, I am not even sure how to think about the philanthropic efforts of the incredibly rich. What I think I can say is that he is an example of someone who isn’t distracting himself until this thing is over. Brees isn’t waiting on the world to change — thanks, John.
Brees gave a great interview after he announced the donation and repeated this important and much need cliche. “Do (your) part, maintain hope, and get through this together.” Don’t look away.
— Shared with young adults as an email devotional on April 3.