What a stressful year 2020 has been for all of us. In one 24-hour period, I found out that a relative contracted COVID-19 and that two other relatives narrowly survived layoffs that happened because …
What a stressful year 2020 has been for all of us. In one 24-hour period, I found out that a relative contracted COVID-19 and that two other relatives narrowly survived layoffs that happened because of the shutdown. Fortunately, the relative with COVID-19 was not “high risk,” and he discovered he had the virus before transmitting it to family members who are in that category. Unfortunately, the two who survived layoffs have friends and co-workers who were not so lucky.
Most days, I waiver between wondering if the precautions we’ve been asked to practice are overreactions to wondering if we shouldn’t be doing more to prevent the spread of the virus. Based upon the reactions I have been reading, I’m not alone.
No one should apologize for having an opinion; we all have them. When criticizing decisions made by our civil and religious leaders, however, I believe it is important to remember that none of us sees any given situation quite from their vantage point. As one of my former mentors in the fire service used to say about being a captain, “You aren’t one, until you are one.”
“Armchair quarterbacking” is a favorite pastime at the fire station dinner table. After they have a few years of experience under their belts, firefighters begin critiquing decisions made by those in command of the fireground. It is a good learning exercise to consider how one might have responded to a situation differently from the way leadership did, but no one ever lost sleep over hypothetical consequences resulting from imaginary decisions.
Pretend scenarios from the comfort of one’s living room chair can never replicate how it feels to make real-time life and death decisions. Knowing that one choice could mean jeopardizing the lives of those in your charge, while a different choice could result in loss of civilian lives and/or their property. Realizing that you will have to live with the consequences of those decisions for the rest of your life, is a burden most of us, thankfully, never will carry in our lifetime.
Few of us have had to speak with those who have lost family members to COVID-19 and wondered if we could have done more to prevent their deaths. Few of us have simultaneously had to speak with those whose businesses and jobs were lost because of the closures and wondered if our precautions went too far.
To be clear, we should dare to question the decisions our leaders make. We should look critically at how their decisions control the virus’ spread versus how those decisions affect our society’s economic future. These are healthy practices.
We should not forget, however, that we aren’t privileged with information that tells the whole story. We should not forget that our hypothetical scenarios do not bear the full weight of life and death consequences and, as followers of Christ, we should be more charitable in our assessments of the intentions of those in leadership positions.
May we never apologize for being an opinionated people. May we always remember to express our gratitude to those who have accepted the yoke of leadership during these difficult times. And may we recommit ourselves to praying for all of our leaders.
(Mike Leman works for the Diocese of Cheyenne in the Office of Catholic Social Teaching and Legislative Liaison. He is based in Cheyenne.)