“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy,” said the great F. Scott Fitzgerald.
As a lifelong lover of good writing and more specifically, a Fitzgerald fan, the juxtaposition in that simple line hits me right between the eyes.
Juxtaposition is the name of the game these days. Life is slower … and not. Simpler … and not.
Just this morning, I found myself working from home while simultaneously helping our son with his math homework, planning our family’s evening meal, and starting a load of laundry. I manage crises for clients, but I don’t always manage to brush my own hair.
There have been Zoom calls, too many to number, to check on projects and catch up with friends.
There have been small birthday parties from six feet apart, where we see our favorite people but cannot hug them.
There’s a work wardrobe that, if I’m being honest, is now often business on the top and a party on the bottom.
Juxtaposition is never subtle, after all.
There is tragedy.
As of this writing, more Oklahomans have died of COVID-19 than we lost in the Oklahoma City bombing 25 years ago.
We are all losing precious time with the loved ones we cannot safely visit now, even as we hunker down at home with our immediate families.
Businesses are struggling, and the price of a barrel of oil has dipped into the red. Unemployment is nearing record highs.
And there are heroes.
Doctors and nurses care, with equal compassion, for those who stayed home and got sick anyway and those who went about daily life and suffered the horrific consequences of this terrible disease.
Grocery store workers don masks and stock shelves, making home deliveries to those strictly sheltering in place, risking their own lives to help others get by even as they worry about how to make ends meet on a minimum wage.
Nonprofits serving our most vulnerable citizens continue to find creative ways to love our neighbors, despite the necessary distance between us.
Yes, there are heroes.
“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety in life,” wrote Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby.
Heroes and tragedy. Within and without. It seems Fitzgerald understood well the constant juxtaposition of life and death.
It’s an understanding we all gain from some combination of age and experience.
That understanding allows us to be enchanted, even as we are repelled by our current circumstances. We enjoy the simplicity of our days at home, even as our responsibilities become more layered. We find heroes among the tragedy around us, and if we’re really at peace with all that has transpired and transposed, we focus not on their struggles, but on their bravery in the face of such struggles.
For it is in doing so that our eyes are opened to the beauty scattered amidst our struggles, and our hearts gain a refreshed appreciation for the giving and receiving that make a life.