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A Terrible Opportunity

Four brothers watched as their fifth brother died slowly, agonizingly, from suffocation due to a lung disorder. Our Mother, our wives, and our children bore witness, too. As his cancer progressed, a side effect caused his lungs to close down, making even the slightest exertion laborious and anxious. His COPD didn’t care that he had been the most fit, active, philanthropic man I have ever known. It didn’t matter that he did everything “right”; he was killed nonetheless by a bad thing that happens to good people.

Cancer has no friends.

When our brother was very ill, weak and bone-thin, he was confined to a wheel chair and needed someone to help him (he, like the rest of his brothers, hated having anyone help him with anything). Living alone in Los Angeles, he had almost died in an ER and all of us, his four healthy brothers and our Mom, came running from all corners of the U.S. to bring support. The reinforcements - the heavy artillery - came at once to keep Death from claiming him. He pulled through it, though his path to eventual death still clearly lay before him.

We needed to move him closer to one of us. As we all surrounded his bed, we mapped out a detailed and immediate plan to move him from L.A. to Portland, Oregon, where Mom and one brother lived. As we strategized, our mother observed her four adult sons reason, persuade, and collaboratively consider options as we cobbled together our collaborative assault. Each brother, even our sick teammate in the bed, contributed to the conversation. We respected one another’s opinions, refined the worthy strategies and allowed full participation. Everyone shared ownership in the creation and execution of The Plan.

Our mother suddenly remarked, “It’s like watching five generals forge a plan to wage a battle. Each of you boys has ideas and contributes to win the day.” We smiled at one another and went right back to finishing our plan to spirit our ailing brother out of L.A.

The Plan worked to perfection and our brother lived among family for the rest of his too-short life.

In a very real way, the horrific specter of cancer gave my family a terrible opportunity: in the face of tragedy, we came together to face a shared threat. The crisis had forced us to embrace the opportunity to focus on what was truly important and put aside any and all differences for the common good - our dying brother.

COVID-19 has no friends, either.

The pandemic has us all seeking shelter within ourselves and with one another. Hoarders are being shunned as the selfish people they are and communities are pulling together. Like cancer, the coronavirus doesn’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat; culture and skin color doesn’t matter either. It’s in all 50 states and world wide. The 1% is as likely to contract the virus as the 99%. The economy for everyone everywhere is in ruins. 

Yes, COVID-19 has given us a terrible opportunity. Getting past this will require a monomania of unprecedented scale. It is a strenuous challenge to our global spirit of cooperation. “America Comes First” must give way to “We’re all in this together.” We are being tested and we need to dig deep to find strength within in spite of our easy-to-acquire lifestyle in the U.S. which has coddled us too long.

This terrible opportunity will teach us whether we deserve the swag we think we already earned. 

We here in the U.S., well-known for running our mouths, have been talking.

Now let’s see how good we are at walking.

©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore. 

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