Some years ago, I wrote a book titled "The Things That Matter Most." It was a critique of the continuing impact the '60s generation has had on the country.
The coronavirus pandemic, too, offers us an opportunity to consider what matters most in our nation and individual lives. We are told to stay indoors, not travel, avoid restaurants and bars and crowds of more than 10 people. Many have been ordered to work from home. Some are being laid off or have had their hours reduced. Entertainment seems limited to the few things worth watching on TV.
Rather than lament this -- and there is plenty to lament -- how about seeing it as an opportunity? During Lent, some people give up certain things to practice self-discipline and demonstrate their devotion to God.
While there is a big difference between voluntarily giving up something and being forced to give up many things and while there's a difference between a religious practice and an infectious virus, the principle remains the same.
What are you now giving up that you could do without? Put another way, what are you now focusing on that did not get your attention before the coronavirus?
Does being forced to stay indoors and spend more time with your spouse and kids (who are mostly staying home from school) offer an opportunity, or do you consider it a burden? If you are a workaholic who brings work home from the office in the pursuit of money and material things, what opportunities does this forced confinement offer and will you take advantage of them?
Has making money been your primary goal? Are you making less money because you are not working as much, or maybe at all? Are you having to re-order your priorities?
I recently moved. My wife and I are amazed at all the things we still have after donating many items to charity. We had to rent a storage unit for the overflow. Material things never fully satisfy and yet many of us continue to pursue them as if they do.
If you crave status, does that matter as much while you focus on handwashing and other virus-preventive measures? How often did you even think about washing your hands before the virus?
Last Sunday the president called for the nation to pray that God might remove the threat of the coronavirus and protect us from it. Other presidents -- one thinks of Franklin Roosevelt's call to prayer on D-Day, June 6, 1944 -- have asked the nation to pray when the power of government seemed insufficient to overcome a serious challenge. Could this present a similar opportunity for those so inclined to seek a closer relationship with "the God who made us," as Abraham Lincoln said in his proclamation for a day of "humiliation, fasting and prayer" in the midst of the Civil War?
If nothing else is working and if politicians are incapable of guaranteeing our safety, why do so many of us continue to look to Washington for help? Leaders can do some things, but can they do what is most needed?
Last question. When the virus is no longer a threat, will you return to your old ways? Will you again focus on money, things, status and work, or has this virus taught you a lesson, a lesson about what matters most for you, your family and the nation?
As pastor Lon Solomon, president and founder of Lon Solomon Ministries, likes to say: "Not a sermon, just a thought."
Readers may email Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for Cal Thomas' new book "America's Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers and the Future of the United States" (HarperCollins/Zondervan). Readers may email Cal Thomas at email@example.com.