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  • Reverend James Squire

What’s Next? Who’s Next?

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Vicki and I have started watching The Crown which is a continuation of the Netflix series tracing events in the history of the British Monarchy. It is certainly not a thriller or a mystery although history that I didn’t know is part of the narrative. At the end of each episode, as the viewer, I have a strong impulse that I want to see "What’s next?" Authors of books and TV series seemed geared to produce this feeling in us.

I remember as a child going to the Saturday movies with friends. There was always a serial that went along with the designated movie. The classic example would be that we saw most often was of a woman tied to the train tracks with the locomotive coming down the tracks at high speed. Just at the moment when we would all be screaming, the serial would stop and a sign would appear on the silver screen with the words, “To Be Continued”.

“What’s next?” drives a great deal of human nature particularly as we continue our way through the desert of the Pandemic. As I write this, the virus is spiking, deaths have reached new records, people are refusing to obey the guidelines set out by the CDC, our health care workers and other essential workers are overwhelmed, as well as businesses and families.

All the questions in our hearts and minds seem to be geared to “Watch’s next?”. The news about vaccines seems to have reduced our fear of “What’s next?”. We are in a place in politics where we are on the uncharted ground of a President who won’t release vital records and funds to enable a smooth transition of a new Administration. It is clear that one of the many downsides of the present Administration has been four years of American citizens nervous about “What he was going to do next?” as each day was filled with a new self-manufactured crisis. “What’s next?” is an unsettling question to dominate one’s life.

When someone has a serious disease such as cancer, their lives are dominated by this question as well. The only way that I know to deal with this unsettling question is to pray, stay in the moment, and take one day at a time. Psychologists refer to this as compartmentalization. We focus on things that take us out of our selves. That is key. We have all heard the expression, “If you think you have it bad, just know that there is someone out there struggling more than you.” That doesn’t help us with our immediate pain, but I think that is an attempt to have us move from concern for self to concern for others.

One of the important stories that addresses this issue is The Tree of Sorrows. The story indicates that when we die, we have the opportunity to walk around the Tree of Sorrows and to put our sorrows on it. The catch is that we have to take someone else’s sorrows off and claim them as our own. As the story continues as we leave the Tree, people put their acquired sorrow back on the tree and choose their original source of pain.

I think that there is a paradox here handling the epidemic or any other challenge. Take it one day or even one hour at a time, but learn something from the world of sports. It is “next man up”. When one player is injured and unable to play, they literally say “Next man up”. They are not thinking about the next man during seasonal play. He or she is not their focus. They are focusing on each game and each play, but he or she is there and ready in the wings. How do you and I use that approach? Name your greatest fear. Then ask yourself, “What is my greatest hope?” Think how you would address that fear so that you would have some control over your life if that fear arrives. Then put that hope in the bullpen of your life, know it is there when you need it. The goal would be not “What is your greatest fear?” but “What is your greatest hope?” That would move your question from “What’s next? to “Who’s next?” Hope will be waiting there as your answer. Hope could always be "your next man up!"

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