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COVID-19 teaches us the difference between life and living

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The COVID-19 panic is drawing a very clear distinction between two important terms: life and living.

As politicians stumble over each other to reach any microphone or TV camera to announce even more crazy restrictions, people are growing tired of being locked in their own homes.

The politicians promise life.

“We’re doing this for your safety,” they all say, despite the fact the illness has made less than two-tenths of one percent of Americans sick enough to even be counted as “confirmed” cases. Yet, the response to the illness has dramatically and drastically impacted nearly all 327 million Americans in some way.

In fact, with confirmed cases climbing over 700,000 this week, more than 22 million people are now out of work as a result of government-imposed sanctions.

Is life enough?

The situation begs an answer to a serious question. Is being alive simply enough?

Should we be happy just breathing and feeling the beating of our hearts as we sit in front of our televisions consuming hours of endless drivel in the name of “entertainment?”

One condescending meme circulating on Facebook reminds us that our parents and grandparents went to war in foreign countries and all we’re asked to do is sit on a couch watching TV to fight a different battle. “You’ve got this,” the meme encourages.

Should we be content just knowing we have enough food to eat while wading through one political post after another on social media or trying to avoid the endless drumbeat of panic promoted by the media?

We’re led to believe we should simply be “glad to be alive,” even though our lives are void of any semblance of meaningful purpose.

According to a life ratings poll conducted by Gallup earlier this month, stress has increased by 14 points since August to 60% and worry jumped 21 points to 59%. “Daily enjoyment” plummeted 20 points to 61%.

Less than half of Americans consider their lives to be “thriving,” which is the lowest level since the start of the Great Recession 12 years ago.

The dark mood of America is palpable. I’m angry myself and sensing growing frustration among people who are tired of being locked in their homes “for their own good.” When you venture out, people aren’t smiling. They are fearful, panicked, worried and burdened.

Life is not enough. People want to live!

In times of economic calamity, suicides rise dramatically along with unhealthy addictions. Drug abuse, alcoholism, porn use and obesity all climb as people seek to medicate their miserable lives to find a minuscule amount of comfort – even if they know it is only momentary and will kill them in the end.

Hopelessness leads to despair, and despair is very difficult to overcome when people don’t see a light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Some people are making the best use of their time by engaging in online training to improve existing skills or learn new ones. There are thousands of courses to teach people everything they may want to know whether it is for personal interest or to advance career-oriented goals.

You can learn to become more productive, improve your writing, play the piano, hone your leadership skills or even learn how to fix RVs without even leaving your home.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of self-improvement books and audio books available online. Don’t forget that YouTube uploads nearly 300 hours of new video content every minute of the day. There is probably a dozen or more videos available on every conceivable topic. For crying out loud, there are even videos to teach you underwater basket weaving and how to cut your own hair.

We have all the time in the world right now and no excuses not to invest the time to improve our lives. But, do you know what that sounds like to me? School without recess.

We’re social creatures

Let’s be honest, what’s the point of learning new things if you never get a chance to put the skills to use? There is only so much you can do inside before you just want to break out of prison and get outside or hang out with other people.

A video was produced a few years ago in which inmates at a maximum security prison in Indiana were interviewed about the most important time of their day.

“I didn’t know what freedom was, until it was taken from me,” one prisoner notes. “You can never escape the walls. You can never escape your mind.”

I know the feeling, thanks to the COVID-19 panic.

“Then, imagine when they open your door and you can walk out and feel the sun on your face,” he added.

Each inmate gets to leave his cell for two hours daily. The video then goes on to note that children, as a general rule, get just one hour of outdoor time every day. The prisoners are stunned. They can’t image being trapped inside 23 hours a day. A guard calls that type of restriction “potentially disastrous.”

We’re beginning to feel the impact of that disastrous situation unfolding in real time for almost everyone in the world.

Life vs. living

The current situation begs another question, what is life, if you can’t live?

For 45 days and counting, most Americans have been under one type of “stay at home order” or another. States have closed parks. Officials limited shopping to “essential” items only. They closed theaters and cultural centers. They prohibited sporting events.

People are threatened with arrest for going to church. Michigan won’t even allow people to cross the street to visit neighbors. Cities impose one-way walking to ensure that people don’t accidentally bump into each other.

It is nonsense, pure and simple. It is the basics of life without the essence of life.

Life to the full

In John 10:10, Jesus proclaims, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus knew that people needed more than just being able to listen to their heartbeats and feel their chests rise and fall. He wanted us to enjoy life, and to do so in the company of others.

Sorry folks, a virtual small group just isn’t the same, nor is a virtual church service. It’s like watching a movie on a small screen. It’s not interacting with other people in any meaningful way.

Walking around the neighborhood is a good break, but it’s not the same as walking in the woods, along the beach or hiking in mountains. Communicating with coworkers online may be efficient, but it’s still lacking an important ingredient – humanity.

Our elected leaders need to step up and unlock our prison gates before we face a genuine crisis of disastrous proportions – the complete loss of joy and purpose.

Why do so many men retire at 65 and die a few years later?

Yes, nearly 40,000 people have died from COVID-19, if you believe the official numbers. Each statistic represents a life, and the loss is tragic for the friends and family members of the patients.

I just received word that the only person I personally knew who contracted COVID-19 went to be with his savior this evening. It is a big loss for many people.

The current death toll amounts to 0.0011% of the American population. But if we don’t take action soon to allow the living to enjoy life, then despair and hopelessness will impact far more people with far more disastrous, long-term consequences.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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