During this pandemic, I have been reading more. One book I have been going through is Robert Putnam’s The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. Robert’s thesis is that America’s Gilded Age — 1870s through 1890s — shows remarkable similarity to our own, including strong divisions in the country, a yawning gap between rich and poor, and a societal focus on “I” rather than “we.”
After the gilded age there was a steady improvement, with a growing sense we are in this together. The height of the curve was reached in the 1950s and early 60s, which represents the lowest gap between rich and poor; most favorable health indicators; highest social spending to help the poor; lowest political polarization; and the apex of America’s sense of moving forward together. Since the 1960s, we have fallen back to the level of the gilded age with the toxic fractionalization of today.
I found myself hopeful that our parish could be an oasis from the strong divisions and “me” mentality of our current situation. Yes, we do have differences, but those need not divide us. There was one quote in the book, “Where there is unity, there is openness to diversity.”
I was struck by the sharing at Mass a couple of weeks ago by some of our founding members. It was repeated a number of times how those first members were intentional about establishing an environment, where all are welcomed. I continue to be impressed by the outreach ministries in this community. It is one way we try to bridge the gap between rich and poor, not just through the material assistance we give but by the human contact we establish.
This pandemic may make us feel more isolated and alone, but our faith reminds us we are united to one another and to the Lord. Find ways to foster this unity: join together in the live streaming of Mass when you cannot physically be present; pray for the parish and its ministries; volunteer when you are able; learn more about your faith through our Faith Formation program; and support financially the mission of the parish.
We are living in the midst of a very “I-centered” time in our culture. We can choose to live as a “we” – united as God’s Holy People.