About a month before I was born, back towards the end of 1962, the world played chicken with nuclear weapons, and both sides blinked, thankfully. As a result, I grew up knowing about the Cold War arms race but not really believing the worst was going to happen because nobody wanted it to happen, neither the people nor any of the leaders. I felt free to concentrate on other things. Until recently.
Also recently, the world has been coping with COVID-19 for over two years now, and amidst all the debates about the right way to handle things, vaccines and mandates and all that, the number of deaths attributed to this terrible disease is sneaking up on 1 million in America and in the world more than 6 million. Needless to say, we are all traumatized by it in one way or another.
Life is messy. The world is noisy. In addition to life’s wonders, distressing things are happening both in the larger world and in personal situations. It has always been helpful to me to remember that though we observe the birth, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus in time throughout the year, Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are ever-present realities.
So is Lent, which nears its end. Next week is Holy Week, which was itself very clamorous. Hard things were happening. The Holy season offers a time of contemplation about the meaning of these foundational events in our faith tradition, and also whatever is happening in the world and our lives.
For me, the other situation that accompanies everything else these days and demands my attention is that my father is near the end of his life. There has been a long, slow decline over a period of five years or so, and it is winding down. I am not from Ohio, I came here about 6-and-a-half years ago to be the pastor at the First Baptist Church. Since he is not known locally, and as a small effort at a tribute, let me give a brief introduction.
His name is Oscar Hugh Allison Jr., but everyone calls him Bocky. My hometown is St. Louis, Missouri, which is where my dad lives. His hometown is McAlester, Oklahoma, in the southeastern part of the state. After graduating high school there, he attended Southeast Missouri State University because it was inexpensive and he could afford it. Later, after becoming a high school history teacher, he earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D in History from St. Louis University. He taught high school history for 30 years and helped coach cross country and track teams (on which I participated), then 15 more at the college level.
He endured some hard things in his life, but, as an extension of his faith, came to the belief that no matter what a person faces along the way, anyone can make it if there is at least one person in their life that is kind to them. He told me once, it could be a neighbor or an aunt or a sibling, but everyone deserves someone in their life that is kind to them. With the help of my mom, to whom he was married for 50 years, they tried, whenever they could, to be that person. He never stopped being kind to me.
For all the messy events of life, our faith offers a quiet security that speaks a reassuring note, that everything will be okay, even after the worst, as it sometimes does happen. The death at the end of that Holy Week was not only not the end, it was a beginning, which means that even if the world denies it, kindness is the best policy, and to be kind is a good legacy.
Dr. Mark Allison is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Delaware.