For the first time in perhaps two centuries, almost the entire world is in the same boat. Every major country in the world is dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19. All over the planet, life is being disrupted, change sweeping over everyday life like a tsunami. People are startled and scared. For the first time in my lifetime, despite our location, we are all in the same boat.
Despite growing up in the Caribbean, I am not a huge fan of boats. The way they pitch and roll, the way that water can gather on the deck when the waves are choppy. I don’t like the smell of fish or the sensation of damp against my skin. I love the wind as the boat moves through the water but not the way it can leap and rear on the waves when it isn’t. I would be doubly squigged out if I were in that boat alone. And I have been before.
As a child, on a field trip, I elected to stay in the boat while my classmates tumbled into the water at Stingray City. I had no interest in swimming with creatures longer and larger than my entire body combined. Creatures that, if I stepped on one by accident, could deal me a painful blow with their stinger-tail. So I stayed in the boat by myself. That wasn’t fun either. I can remember holding onto the bars on the boat tightly as it bobbed and weaved on the water, an unsettled and unsettling feeling tingling at my temples. It was the same feeling that I still get when I am nauseated or when I hear Velcro being pulled apart. I still might not have liked being on the boat but perhaps I would not have been quite so unsettled if someone else had been there with me.
Simon Peter and the other disciples were in their own little boat when a storm came up and pitched and rolled them on the lake’s surface. I am sure they would agree with me: not fun, do not recommend. Even though they were not alone in the boat, it almost feels as though they forgot that Jesus was there. And maybe they did. But, yes, that was Him, napping in the prow there, rubbing bleary eyes when they shook Him awake in their fear. Apparently, this storm was enough to make even seasoned fishermen. as several of them were, cling white-knuckled to ropes and the sides of the boat. But they were not alone. They were together and they were with Him. And they got through it.
We are not alone in this boat right now. Many others, millions of them in fact, are startled, scared, and suffering, just as we are. I know that thinking about the misery of others may not be especially helpful but that is not what I mean. What I mean is that we all—for one of the first times—can empathize with each other. We know what those other folks are feeling, and they know what we are feeling because it is the same thing. We are all startled and scared and suffering. We are all in this boat together. That empathy can lead us to patience, that patience to compassion, and that compassion to mercy. May we look up from our own white-knuckling long enough to recognize the fear in the face of the person across the boat, the worry for their family, friends, and themselves. May we see ourselves in them, recognize ourselves, and offer the comfort that we so desperately crave, too. We are all in this boat together.
Ya basta, Dear Ones! Yibambe! Hold fast! To hope and to each other. We are all in this boat together; let’s let it make us softer, kinder, stronger, more loving, more merciful. Let’s let it make us better.