BOS 11 20 2020 doublesize
The first week of November, the only news watched in our house was the vote count in the American presidential election. Within minutes of Pennsylvania being declared, our phone rang. My husband's oldest son called, jubilant that his father's home state had gone for Biden.

The American election was still the focus last week. Television reporters discussed and rehashed every move President Trump made. My husband watched every bit of it. He wanted to talk over every possibility, every worry. "The states where the count is close have Republican governors. What if Trump convinces them to intervene? With the electoral college system, they might..." And the story went on with new wrinkles every day. It felt to me as if the attention focussed on the president was deepening the split in an already divided country.

Late last week, the news shifted to the possible cost of this hesitation. Reporters started arguing that the president elect should get access to classified briefings. "The next leader needs to know what the potential threats are." Someone argued that the last time a transition started late was just before 9-11. "If that election had not taken so long to resolve, maybe President Bush would have been more prepared." This reporting was promoting fear.

The constant attention to what the president was doing to hold on to his job was building division and fear.

Meanwhile, the president and vice-president elect were busy working, focussed on January's tasks, with what and who they need to make things happen.

I finally told my husband that I did not want to hear anymore about what the president thought he can do to keep his job. Somebody needs to, but I get to choose where I put my attention.

So here is my confession. Every day at noon, I turn on the radio to hear the report on the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario. The few times when I am back to the kitchen after 12, I pick up my phone and search for that number. Pretty soon after 3:30, I go to my email and read the daily update from our medical officer of health, how many local cases there are and where.

A part of my attention to this is reasonable. I have some responsibility, first for family, but also for my congregations. I need to know what the rules are and what the risks are. But a big reason for my attention is the hope that the numbers will go down enough that family can come at Christmas. I am afraid that it will just be two of us for the holiday.

Watching the numbers climb builds fear, but also anger. We went out for a patio dinner on the last nice day last week. We walked by a table of five women who don't live together. They were having a great conversation over beer, loud and laughing. I found myself angry. That kind of behaviour puts them at risk. And as long as people are sitting that close in Brampton and Toronto, my Christmas is at risk.

One of the spiritual disciplines in my life is preparing a sermon each week. I have to sit and let scripture speak to me, challenge me. Last week's psalm began, "To you I lift my eyes, you who are enthroned in the heavens." The person who wrote this song had had more than their fill of scorn and trouble. But they chose to look up, to turn their eyes to God. More than that, this song is intended to be sung by pilgrims making their way to the temple in Jerusalem: they have turned their whole selves toward God who can bring them healing and mercy.

Reading that psalm, and thinking about that dinner out, I realized I was in the psalm as one of the people spreading scorn. I asked myself what it would look like to turn my eyes to God, to focus on God as much as a pilgrim walking to Jerusalem.

I still worry about people gathering in close quarters. I cling to the dream that family can come home at Christmas. But I am going to try to be a little more balanced about where I put my attention. I don't want to fuel division or fear or scorn. I need to shift my focus to what builds hope and light.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway


CopyRight ©2015, ©2016, ©2017 of Hub Content
is held by content creators