An Open Letter of Gratitude from Jack Suderman

I am - apparently - vulnerable. This for two reasons: I’m chronologically categorized (senior), and I’m locationally challenged (live in a senior’s community).

But I don’t feel vulnerable. My wife and I are both in excellent health, with robust energy, and significantly active in meaningful things. The social definition and my personal experience of who I am, don’t match.

Yet, I recognize that I am 75 years old, and I accept the definitions thrust upon me by the younger generations. And we are doing our best to align our lives with the multitude of guidelines that come at us from the federal, provincial, municipal and community jurisdictions.

I stand amazed at the sacrifices made on our behalf. 

Front-line health-care workers are like the soldiers of other times: willing to sacrifice their well-being, maybe to the point of death, for the welfare of the vulnerable they are serving. Veterans may feel insulted if I compare the health-care workers to the troops of D-Day or Vimy Ridge. Yet this too is a war, but with victims only on one side. It is a war in which sacrifice to the point of death is offered, but no enemy can be killed in response. I hope when all is over, there will be hundreds of purple hearts for their sacrifice and thousands of medals awarded.

Political leaders are putting everything on the line for us. I’m impressed by how young many of these folks are. Yet, they are staunch and unflinching in their determination to help the vulnerable. Billions of dollars are designated to protect us. Huge deficits are being amassed for our benefit. Reputations are surely being nurtured or destroyed in the process.

Medical officers are thrust into the limelight and assigned an unprecedented degree of authority as worthy representatives of the best science we can muster. All of these generous folks persistently speak of their concern for the vulnerable, and I believe them. Strategies are devised to protect us. New social norms are created for our benefit.

Essential service employees are risking themselves for us; groceries and food are still available; pharmacists continue their patient work; Garbage is still picked up.

Businesses and corporations are losing massive amounts of investment; entrepreneurs are offering up their own vulnerabilities for the sake of the vulnerable.

And then there are the innumerable “little” things that so many - including family - are contributing. There are notes, video calls, emails, songs, food, services offered, walks and distractions created.

I am profoundly humbled by the focus on protecting the vulnerable. I am humbled by the multiple ways that family, friends, church, community, society and nation are pulling together for our sake. I don’t feel as though I deserve so much attention, sacrifice and care, but I am deeply impressed.

Most of all, I’m grateful - very grateful. For those who ever had questions about the willingness of the younger generations to step up to the plate, to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the common good, those questions are now answered. Thousands of them are risking their lives, their families, and their future for our sake. If there ever were questions about the capacity of younger leaders to lead in settings of unprecedented complexities, those too have been answered. I can only imagine the administrative nightmares that await leadership with every new decision and guideline that comes along. Yet, they are responding with insight, patience and creative brilliance.

In a word all we can say is: “Thank you to each one.” Latin Americans have a common saying - very relevant here. It is simple yet profound: “May God repay you” (Que Dios les pague).


Robert J. Suderman

New Hamburg, Ontario

March 27, 2020

Robert (Jack) Suderman is former general secretary of Mennonite Church Canada. He has spent over 50 years working with the church as a teacher, scholar, and administrator.  His teaching and scholarship have continued into retirement where Jack continues to serve the church through Mennonite World Conference involvements.  Having lived in Latin America for 10 years, he has engaged the church in over 40 countries.  He is married to Irene, and they have three sons and daughters-in-law, and several grandchildren.