“No Bird Soars in a Calm”

I’ve been reading the remarkable story of the Wright Brothers—for the third time. Rarely has a book so drawn me in. Wilbur and Orville Wright’s humility, quiet determination, courage, and persistence are inspiring beyond words. All the scientific challenges they had to overcome (neither one even went to college), all the doubters and naysayers they had to overlook, all so powerfully told in David’s McCullough’s wonderful book. (I’ve been tweeting quotes from the book.)

In no small part, the Wright brothers learned how to fly by studying birds. During one of their stays in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilbur wrote this simple observation in his journal: “No bird soars in a calm.”

It related directly to the problems he and Orville were trying to solve. But those words also seem perfectly suited to the problems we’re all trying to solve right now.  

Flying into the wind

In this turbulent time, countless people are suffering. At the same time, countless others who are healthy seem to have been lifted up by the strong winds blowing through our world, compelled to step up in powerful, selfless ways.

It’s happening on a business level. Instead of parking all of its unused planes, Jet Blue has been flying medical workers to New York City at no cost. Instead of letting its cars sit idle, Hertz has been letting medical workers use them for free at a time when public transportation can pose a risk. And instead of shutting its doors, New York’s Four Seasons Hotel has been providing free rooms to healthcare workers. There are many, many other companies taking similar steps.

With too many people still not taking social distancing guidelines seriously, several companies have unleashed their creativity to get the message out, temporarily changing their logos to help draw attention to the importance of such guidelines. Many celebrities and other influencers have taken to Instagram, imploring people to do their part. 

And there are the countless ways individuals have responded to this crisis.

When the nursing home where his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife lives was forced to discontinue family visits, 80-year-old John Kline kept right on visiting. Instead of going to his wife’s room, he’s been going to her window

When the United Kingdom’s National Health Service put out a call for volunteers to help those most impacted by the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people responded.

What can we do?

With the need to keep our distance from others, it can feel difficult to know how to respond. Here are a few suggestions.

Give money. While many churches and synagogues are equipped to take online contributions, some people prefer to put money in the offering plate. As a result, many houses of worship are seeing a decline in weekly offerings. It’s so important to continue giving. We need our houses of worship to be especially strong right now.

Many of us are probably spending less on certain things right now, like entertainment or travel. Consider redirecting some of those funds toward ministries working to address issues related to the pandemic. For example, our family has gotten behind an initiative our church organized to bring meals to medical workers. Also, twice a week we used to bring unused food from one of our kid’s schools to a local food pantry. Now that the school isn’t in session, the food pantry is having to buy more food, so we’ve sent them some money instead.

Give talent. When she heard that there’s a shortage of medical masks, my wife put her sewing skills to work, making masks and donating them to a local hospital.

Give time. Now that all of our kids’ evening and weekend activities have been cancelled, we’ve been playing a lot of board games and card games as a family. The other night, we used FaceTime to include a family member who lives alone out of state. 

A group of my wife’s friends have organized a weekly “pantry challenge,” taking turns choosing a food item that needs to be used to make a meal. They then share pictures of what they made and vote on the best one. 

Are those last two examples helping to save lives or bring an end to the pandemic? No. But they’re fostering much needed community, bringing a little laughter, and helping to ease the pain of isolation.

What have you been doing in response to the pandemic? Sharing your ideas may spur others to take similar steps.

An opportunity like no other

I feel very confident that we will get through this trying time. And we have the potential to grow stronger as a result. The degree to which that’s true will depend greatly on the extent to which we lean into our faith and come alongside of others.  

Take it to heart: “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Take action: Decide on one action step you will take today to provide hope, encouragement, or relief to someone who is feeling the effects of the pandemic.

Read more: Don’t Waste a Crisis

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2 Responses to “No Bird Soars in a Calm”

  1. James April 2, 2020 at 9:59 AM #

    Good article Matt, however I must point out that it is not England’s NHS, it is the U.K.’s, which includes three other countries – Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland!

    • Matt Bell April 3, 2020 at 8:08 PM #

      Thanks for catching that, James. I just made the correction.

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