Last week, at a church summer camp, I facilitated a Bible breakout group of about 20 elementary and middle school kids. As we reflected on impossible situations, we wondered more deeply about the interactions of Daniel and Arioch in the second chapter of Daniel. Why would Daniel go out of his way to speak with Arioch and halt the execution of lots of Babylonian sages (who were basically enemies or less than friendly toward Daniel)? Why would Daniel bother to care?
“Because they needed help,” one said. “Because they were humans too and he didn’t want them to die,” another said. “Because God wanted him to,” said another. The text says it was because or “with wisdom and sound judgement” that Daniel sought out Arioch. But if you ask me, these kids seemed to be remarkably insightful with their wonder. What about you, I asked? Would you have put your life at risk for someone else when they were responsible for destroying your home and sending you away? To a man, my 9, 10, and 11 year-olds all said, “Yes.” “Of course.”
Ironically, later that day, the Burke County Board of Education and School Superintendent met to face what should have been a relatively simple situation. Should kids wear a mask when they return to school in August? Simple because the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC and federal government already issued recommendations that all students should return wearing masks, the NCDHHS and the Governor already issued recommendations that all students (especially those in K-8) should return masked, and the Director of the Burke County Health Department concurred with a masking policy for all students. The recommendations from every level were directed to local school boards to enable them to make their own decision given their specific context. Given that COVID-19 infections are surging again in Burke, the probability of transmission is higher now than at any other point in the last 15 months, and that at least six out of every 10 residents still refuse a vaccine, the choice is a relatively simple one.
Instead, what should have been a relatively simple issue resulted in an embarrassing failure of leadership. And, what we are left with is an impossible situation. Perhaps it’s more complicated because those 62% of residents might vote in November. If no vote or action had taken place at all, the result of optional mask wearing would have been the same. There was no vote required to establish that policy. So what did that vote accomplish? Perhaps we should wonder about that too.
Now, it’s our turn to lead and choose what is best for the health and safety, not only of ourselves, but of our neighbors. Why should we bother to care? “Because they needed help,” one said. “Because they were humans too and he didn’t want them to die,” another said. “Because God wanted him to,” said another. What about you? If you knew someone else might be in danger and you could do something to help, would you? To a man, my 9, 10, and 11 year-olds at camp that day all said, “Yes!” “Of course!” I sure hope each of us will have the wisdom and sound judgement to do the same.