by Rajmund Dabrowski—
Living in Colorado continues to be engaging and full of wonder for me, offering the awe of nature and the discovery that neighbors here are not as aloof as those we’ve encountered in other parts of the world.
We live in a blue-collar neighborhood among nice neighbors. We’ve discovered that a barter economy is well accepted—my wife grows lavender and other fragrant flowers; in exchange, we get jars of honey from two neignbors living next to us.
The neighbor across the street is a down-to-earth woman who often wears a gray T-shirt with “Proud Atheist” written across the front.
One day, I saw Beckie tending her front yard as I was about to mow our lawn. Already knowing her well, I greeted her with, “Hello, atheist!” She looked up and responded with a wide smile and the greeting, “Hello, Christian!”
Since then, we’ve bonded over our philosophical differences, respecting each other’s diversity of worldviews. We’ve talked about her reasons for not believing in God and my belief in the Absolute, who actually loves her too.
Over the years, we’ve talked about politics, saving the bees, and our common disdain for Nazism and hate speech. She and her husband warned us that we should expect snow in April and should not plant vegetables before Mother’s Day. We have exchanged books and discussed ways of making our neighborhood a better place to live. We’ve also argued, exchanging comments that reveal opinions not easily resolved. One day, she commented that she would love to see more Christians who are kind. “You are kind,” she said.
Something in her past took away the Christian light and put her on the road of disbelief. We have a wide terrain to traverse, I believe. If anthing, practicing kindness and living love will move us all closer to the center to which we can always return as children of God.
Life in America, along with many other countries around the world, has changed with the sudden arrival of the coronavirus scourge. What has changed in my neighborhood is that now we talk while keeping a safe distance between us.
A couple of days ago, my wife received a text message from Beckie: “I am going shopping. Is there something I can get you?” Her unsolicited offer gave me pause.
Nothing seems to divide us, I thought to myself. In the era of a common enemy, diverse opinions, opposite worldwiews, cultural differences simply do not matter. What is left is our humanity. We are in this together—believers and unbelievers. We are all in darkness about where this pandemic situation will lead us and when we can start rebuilding what is being lost day after day after day.
If you wonder about my beliefs, I am an irreverent purveyor of hope, and I believe that my convictions are well lit. Being a child of Light, I know the road and where it leads me.
Reflecting on our current predicament, an experience etched in the recesses of my memory came to mind—a situation from my Warsaw childhood. It was evening, and I watched two people looking for a lost object. Our family lived on the second floor of a building that before WWII was a mansion owned by an aristocrat in the city center. I was lucky to have a room with a balcony, and I could watch city life on full display.
These two people were under a lamppost, walking slowly in circles, their heads bent downward, encouraging each other to search more slowly and to be more focused and thorough. “This is where it slipped from my wallet. It’s black and we won’t see it easily,” I heard the woman remark. They were lucky that their loss happened on a well-lit paved street. But it seemed that they were in the dark nonetheless.
A common, comical allegory came to mind, making perfect sense. It’s usually darker under a lamppost.
“Did you lose your keys here?” a policeman is said to have asked an inebriated man. “No, but the light is much better here,” the man answered.
There can be plenty of darkness under the light. In the era of COVID-19, our thoughts can easily push us into a realm of doubt. Is anxiety, along with fear and despair, the fruit of darkness?
Anne Frank offers a thought: “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
When my faith is lived out, I will be blessed unknowingly. One person at a time.
Rajmund Dabrowski is director of communication for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.