Do the next right thing

In a year of surpassing disruption, discord, dishonesty and disease, many good-hearted people have stepped up and done the next right thing.

Unable to stop the rampaging virus, medical workers and first responders waded selflessly into helping their communities. Unable to teach in person, teachers quickly learned how to teach remotely. Despite scoffing and phony machismo, people wore masks and stayed inside. Organizations of every kind kept members safe by learning how to use Zoom. Faith communities adapted to “virtual worship.”

Not everyone did the next right thing, or else we wouldn’t have well over 200,000 dead from COVID-19. Many proved as selfish in pandemic life as in the old normal. Many rushed back to partying and became “superspreaders.” Some promptly hoarded everything in sight.

Meanwhile, good-hearted people stepped up to demand justice, especially in race relations and policing. Everyday people marched on behalf of people they didn’t know. They put “Black Lives Matter” signs on their lawns, and when racist neighbors tore them down, they put the signs up again.

Yes, some churches did the minimum, but others began cooking hundreds and thousands of meals for the hungry. Drivers carried those meals out to the poverty corners that they never see. One community did a town-wide food giveaway in May and then did it again in August, this time with twice as many waiting up to three hours for food.

Communities held parades to congratulate high school seniors whose graduations couldn’t be in person. Firefighters put on a drive-through Halloween for town children.

We know how to do the next right thing. We know what generosity of spirit looks like. Some good-hearted people wear a religious label. Some don’t. But I sense a broad awareness that, even in a time of disruption, people know what the face of God looks like. Not a hater spewing venom and brandishing a weapon, but an exhausted teacher putting her students first. Not a smug politician scoffing at democratic norms, but one neighbor helping another neighbor. Not a conniving business trying to get rich while people are vulnerable, but a musician giving away his art for free.

When the pandemic eases its death grip, we will need even more generous people doing the right thing. The economic cost of this virus will be horrible. The damage done to our national life by scoundrels wearing suits will take years to undo. The arming of America won’t go away. Racial hatred won’t go away. A predatory economy won’t go away. The dehumanizing of immigrants won’t go away.

This is a time for Christian communities to step up to their true calling and to show the way to justice and hope. No more fussing about right opinion. No more denigrating other religious points of view. No more flashy processions and self-congratulation.

This is a time to cook food and give it away. This is a time to
stand against evil.

This is the time to do the next right thing.

TOM EHRICH is a publisher, writer, church consultant and president of Morning Walk Media, based in New York.