I picked up the local paper a few days ago. Not one article on the front page that didn’t have to do with this ugly virus making the rounds. I clicked on my smart phone and the top news stories were also about the bug. And of course, that word that always brings cheer to our hearts is frequently bantered around―pandemic.
Now the virus has arrived in my state, the very county where my kids live.
A lot of depressing news.
But, I pick up Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough’s latest book, The Pioneers, and my perspective changes. Once you imagine yourself in 1787 on the western frontier of America, which happened to be Ohio at the time, the situation now does not look so threatening.
For settlers on the banks of the Ohio River during their first winter, food was short, the river frozen, and no provisions could get through. By the grace of God, they survived.
The second winter, an early frost killed all the corn and then there was a measles outbreak. Many children died. They called that year the “starving year.” It was a hard time in the east as well, but the pioneers felt the deprivation more acutely. There were many reasons for this including volcanic eruptions elsewhere on the planet that threw so much debris into the upper atmosphere, sunlight was reduced for the growing of crops.
Then came smallpox.
Even after reading McCullough’s thorough account, I still can’t fathom how they dealt with it all.
McCullough's words have great merit for today especially in light of one giant online retailer removing tens of thousands of items because of price gouging on products related to the virus like hand sanitizer and face masks.
“What saved the settlement was generosity,” he writes and quotes an early settler Joseph Barker, “Where poverty, improvidence, and scarcity meet, charity and benevolence only could give relief.”
One of the area’s earliest historians, Samuel P. Hildreth wrote, “In this great scarcity it was wonderful how little there was of selfishness, and how generally kindness and good feeling abounded. Those who had more resources, lent or gave, to those who had less.”
Words to remember―“What saved the settlement was generosity.”
It’s one thing to be prepared, it’s quite another to be so focused on ourselves we forget others or worse yet exploit them. That’s what happens when we let fear be our motivation. Then we see things like price gouging, born of believing fear and perceived scarcity will motivate customers to pay a higher price.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could look back on these days of global anxiety over this virus as ones that brought out the best in us, not the worst? Don’t we want to be remembered in the same way as those pioneers who dealt with terrible diseases, no health care, little food, the most primitive living conditions, and in the midst of their own suffering were kind and generous to others?
All of us deal with some level of apprehension when we face the unknown, but let’s take a page from the book of these early pioneers who found charity and benevolence could be their ONLY relief in the face of hard times. The apostle Paul knew something about deprivation but passed on these words of Jesus in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Let’s pray that God would give us the grace as He did our ancestors to focus, not on our fear, but on how we can help. Right now, let’s begin by praying for those affected by the corona virus and for a speedy resolve to the spread.