By: Candace McKibben March 19, 2020
Just after graduating from seminary, I learned about the death of a Southern Baptist minister who was known as Hee Haw’s “Prime Minister of Humor.” It came as a shock. He lived in Louisville, where I attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and was a source of pride for the seminary from which he graduated and where he had also worked. Grady Nutt wrote best-selling books, appeared on the Mike Douglas Show regularly, was a regular on Hee Haw, and toured the country sharing his humor and story-telling talent. He had been licensed as a Baptist minister at the age of twelve and liked to say he was popular in middle school because he could officially marry his classmates. He was a delight to all who knew him. He died tragically at the age of 47 in an airplane accident in Cullman, Alabama, after a speaking engagement there. While the cause of the crash was never officially determined, fog and rain were contributing factors. And while I certainly do not know the circumstances, what I remember thinking personally about this terrible loss years ago was about the ways in which we all sometimes feel invincible, like we can overcome the odds or that the odds do not apply to us.
It is what some have felt about the coronavirus and the increasing restrictions that we are faced with in response to it. Even though I had written my blog last week about lessons we might learn from COVID-19, it did not register with me until late Saturday night past that my own small church might not wish to meet in an abundance of caution and good will. We are creatures of habit and used to functioning rather independently in our spheres. The importance of considering all that we do, not simply from our own interest, but with the best interest of others constantly at the forefront, is a new pattern for many.
The Spring Equinox comes to us earlier this year than it has since 1896, and we welcome it. Arriving on Thursday, March 19, it is the day of the year when the balance between night and day is the most equal. It is a wonderful metaphor for what we are living in these days when we need to balance between our own needs and the needs of others. We welcome spring, the season associated with new life, beauty, and hope, as we are looking for balance and accepting a new normal in our lives, at least for the time being.
Some signs of spring and hope, beyond the lovely dogwoods, azaleas, and daffodils, include the ways in which Second Harvest, Leon County Schools, and United Way are partnering to feed the children in our community during this time when they are out of school. Their efforts along with those of congregations and concerned citizens in the Big Bend generate not only food for the children, but food for the spirits of those of us who long for some way to help. It balances personal needs and the needs of others.
The Senior Center and other organizations that serve a large segment of our community with programs for body, mind and spirit are reaching out in meaningful ways, offering tips for staying engaged, remaining active, and caring for personal wellbeing. I love that in a broadcast email from the wonderful Sheila Salyer, Senior Services Manager and Executive Director for the Tallahassee Senior Center Foundation, she encourages both what individuals can do in the safety of their homes and acknowledges the important role that the senior center plays in social connectedness for those they serve. She invites calls, even from those who just need to chat, suggesting to those of us who are eager to be part of the solution the importance of our reaching out to those we know who may be lonely or feel isolated with calls or cards of love. Again, balancing personal needs and safety with the needs of others.
A friend of mine shared with me words attributed to Kitty O’Meara that seem filled with the hope of spring. As we think of new life and growth in this season, her parable felt like a breath of fresh air.
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
As we stay home, as we are ever mindful of the important balance between our own needs and those of others, may we heal in the warmth of spring.