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Faces on Faith: For the greater good

By Staff | Sep 20, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss

Along with millions of other Americans, my father served in World War II. Barely out of high school, he enlisted in the Air Force and proudly served his country. Thankfully, he was not one of the 405,000 American service members killed or the 671,000 who were wounded.

Whenever my dad is asked about serving, he is rather matter of fact. He simply says, “my country needed me, so I enlisted.” Any talk of being a “hero” is quickly extinguished. For him, the heroes are the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice. He says he was simply “doing his duty” to serve and protect our freedom.

I have always been impressed with the willingness my dad and so many others had to make a sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves. “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 para) comes to mind.

I thought about my dad, and all the people who have been willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good, as I watched news footage of people at a local school board meeting screaming at physicians and school board members about having a school mask mandate. They were shouting about their “rights” and the “freedom” to make decisions for themselves. The problem is that their decision to choose not to wear a mask affects others. It isn’t just about them…

Some children are particularly vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with this virus. I have a dear friend who has a child with Down’s Syndrome, and she is terrified to send her son to school with people who are not wearing a mask. But her son does not learn well on Zoom, so she is in a real quandary.

Obviously, on the scale of sacrifices, wearing a mask does not compare with enlisting in the military, and yet we have reached the point where some people are not willing to make even this small sacrifice for the sake of another.

Even if you are not religious, our common humanity requires that we consider the circumstances and needs of our fellow human beings in our decision making. It’s the only way we are going to survive.

If you are religious, I would contend that “love your neighbor” is at the core of your faith tradition. At this moment, love means getting vaccinated and wearing a mask. Do it for the child with Down’s Syndrome, do it for the healthcare workers risking their health on the front lines every day, do it for your country.

The Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss is the rector at Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church.