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Faith Matters: Wanting the best for each other

Since I was a child going off to school, my parents sent me on my way with the instruction, “Do your best!”

You probably heard something similar. It was good advice.

They probably had school work most in mind, wanting me to focus my attention on what was being taught. They also emphasized there was no sin in failing at something as long as I tried my best. Additionally, they wanted me to do my best in relationships with the other students and my teachers.

You and I need to take this advice to heart in this unusual time.

We are asked to wear masks whenever we are in public spaces and unable to social distance appropriately. That is not so much to protect ourselves, as to do our best to protect others. It requires each of us to do our best every day not to put others in jeopardy. It’s a difficult task because I have yet to meet someone who enjoys wearing a mask.

Yet there are those who don’t wear masks, and I wonder, are they not doing their best? Don’t they care about others? Did they forget? Do they have a medical problem keeping them from wearing a mask?

There may be many reasons someone isn’t wearing a mask. Dad would have asked, “Who died and left you to judge?”

Well, perhaps I am the problem. Am I the one who must know why someone isn’t wearing a mask? Would it not be better to think the best of people and believe they have a good reason and are doing their best to be as considerate of our health as we are being considerate of theirs?

I wonder why the medical community didn’t tell us from the beginning that wearing masks would protect us as well as others. More folks would wear them. However, the experts were doing their best by sharing the truth and believed we would all want the best for each other.

Doing my best means that I need to think the best of others. I need to expect others to be doing their best in all they do, just as I do. Sometimes I’m disappointed (when I’m picking up litter in the yard), but I have found more often than not we realize our expectations (when I get back with a bag and discover somebody has already picked up the litter.)

I was taught to pray for my neighbors: those across the street, the state, the nation and the world. When I do my best praying, it is not with a laundry list of grievances, but to lift folks up to God with the intention of wanting the best for them, just as I want the best for myself.

Congregations also need to want the best for each other. We need to pray for all congregations to advance the Kingdom of God as they live out their faith every day. We need to rejoice with neighboring congregations in their joys and successes and grieve with them in the midst of loss or tragedy.

And of course we need to tie our wanting the best for others not only to our prayers but to our actions. May our prayers have hands and feet so that, as we want the best for others, we are present with them to walk side by side and to extend or receive a helping hand as needed.

Rev. Gwen Bernstine, executive director, United Churches of Lycoming County

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