Brother, can you spare some toilet paper?
Rev. Walter Klockers
March 24, 2020 11:42 PM
One of the best-known songs of the Great Depression was “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” It was written in 1930 by lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and composer Jay Gorney, and sung by a number of vocalists, including Bing Crosby.
The song tells the story of a hard-working man who helped build the nation’s railroads and skyscrapers, served his country as a soldier in World War I and farmed the land upon returning home, only to lose everything. He finds himself in a bread line begging for money.
Sadly, during the Great Depression, he was one of many.
One of the fears we now face as a nation (as well as the whole world for that matter) is that we may once again enter a time where people are struggling mightily to pay the bills, have a roof over their heads and put food on the table. Yes, what I’m describing is a worst-case scenario. However, I believe the reality exists for revisiting that by-gone era.
The choice before us is most difficult. In light of a worldwide pandemic, does the leadership of the land err on the side of lengthy mandatory isolation? If so, a long-term consequence would be severe economic damage. If restrictions are lifted too soon, the virus may return with a vengeance.
Is what I am writing here just serving to fuel more fear and panic? Do my words reek of sensationalism? Have I gone too far? In my mind, if anything, they do not go far enough.
In the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, each brother made an offering to God. Genesis 4:2b-5 says, “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering, he had no regard. So, Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”
What was wrong with Cain’s offering? Foremost, I see Abel’s offering as being the very best of what he had, while Cain’s seemed like an afterthought; not much effort was put into it. As such, it was an insult.
I think part of the malady we face today is that many of us have the attitude of Cain. Yes, we know that leadership is calling us to do some difficult things; however, there are some that are not putting much effort into what we offer. This puts us all in peril.
I looked out my window a few days ago to see a group of young folks huddled around each other in conversation. Didn’t they get the memo? Actions such as these will extend the length of the threat.
The sooner more people take this seriously, the better, and I can once again purchase toilet paper at the supermarket.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.