Week 1: Covid-19 social distancing
Post date: Mar 16, 2020 10:27:10 PM
This last Thursday I took my youngest son to an orthodontist appointment. Like I have done on most Thursdays for the last four or five years, I went to Hannaford's to grab a few things. Thursday is generally a great time to go grocery shopping because it is usually empty except for myself and a few people of an older generation.
Like many people, I have been following the Covid-19 progress as it sweeps through our country and county. Yet, as I went to the store on Thursday with my son, I was completely shocked. Only a few hours before, President Trump delivered a speech declaring that the American borders would be closed at midnight - the parking lot was packed with panicked shoppers. When I got inside, ALL the flour was gone, and ALL the rice was gone (except for in the ethnic sections - which is so, so sad for so many reasons). Toilet paper and cleaning supplies were gone. No hand sanitizer. No canned tuna. No oatmeal. Only a few packs of frozen veggies. Whole shelves were bare. The store was packed with people. But it was oddly quiet. No one talked to one another. Everyone was buying large quantities and I noticed a few older couples that I recognized. They seemed so bewildered.
I stood there for a moment - shocked - overwhelmed - stunned. My son looked up at me with big eyes and asked "Mom, is this the apocalypse?" That question broke my heart. He was watching closely and saw people "panic" buying. It was fearful and ugly to see. It seemed so selfish and soul-consuming. And with my son observing, I forced myself to stay calm and steady. I did not want him to see my fear. I forced myself to give the last bag of frozen green beans to a woman with a baby in her cart who was at her wits end. I forced myself to silently remember it is okay to go without coffee for a while. And I bought my normal groceries, minus flour, rice and toilet paper, and then left.
This week, I have had to calm my fears often. I had to tell myself to not be compulsively consuming the news. I talked to my kids about limiting our resources - about the importance of not wasting anything - of why hand washing is so important. I had to constantly stuff my fears down inside me. If my kids coughed, I'd wonder if they were "getting something." My fears were silently eating away at me.
A long time ago I was doing my dishes and put soap into my water bottle to cleanse it. It was nearly impossible to get out all the soap by adding a little water to it and then shaking it out. Doing so just produced more bubbles. I tried over and over. But then I noticed a very curious thing. If I put the bottle under the faucet and let it fill up completely with water, the never ending bubbles were displaced and the soap was removed.
Fear is like that. Stuffing it down inside me doesn't make it go away. Holding it silently doesn't make it go away. Joking about the situation doesn't make it go away. Pretending I'm in control doesn't make it go away. I can't stop my fear. It is suffocating. But like displacing bubbles with water, I can displace my fear with thoughts of truth. It is a continuous process to keep the fear bubbling up in me at bay - and I know I need that stream of truth to be constant. But if I fill my mind with truth, I remain calm and fear becomes powerless over my response.
Focusing on truth doesn't mean nothing bad will happen.
It doesn't mean my family will remain healthy.
It doesn't mean we will love our dinners over the coming weeks and months.
It doesn't mean I will have endless snacks.
It doesn't mean I will not be inconvenienced.
But it does mean that fear does not own me.
It does means I can choose not to be consumed with self and a love of my own comfort.
It does mean I can choose to see and love others and to remember their needs are equal to (and in many cases greater than) mine.
So what is the truth?
The truth is I am extremely fortunate. If I run out of toilet paper, my toilet is only a few feet from my tub. If I get tired and need space, I can ask my kids to read or play outside. I can use the time I am usually commuting to work for exercise. I can eat lunch with my family every day. I can teach my kids more about my craft. I can take naps. I can focus on things like the crocus that just popped out of the ground.
The truth is I can start my seeds for my garden. I can enjoy the sun from my porch swing. Today I have food to eat - and it is in beautiful pottery. I can enjoy finding my youngest asleep in a wheel borrow (this happened). I can enjoy a campfire where my oldest plays guitar and my daughter reads. I can savor the plunk of sap dripping into buckets.
The truth is I had time and supplies to finish my cecropia moth painting. (I hope you can see one of these someday! They are exquisite!)
But the biggest truth of all is this: all of the happy amenities I have now are worth nothing compared to the fact that I have a God who cares about all the suffering that is happening in the world right now. He cares about all the sick people. (Read the book of Matthew.) He cares about people losing their financial security. (Read the book of Ruth). He cares if you are short on food and if your body feels frail. (Read the story of the fish and loaves of bread). He cares if you are anxious and not sleeping. (Read the book of Psalms.) Our problem of sin and suffering is a great one. In fact, it is so great, we are incapable of knowing how big our problem actually is. It is so great that God, himself, had to come into this world - to bring himself down from a heavenly-other-worldly place - and enter into our Covid-19 riddled lives to be with us. He had to come down from his supreme authority and ultimate power and magnificent glory to subject himself to our world of sickness and death and suffering so that we could avoid the greatest suffering of all: a separation between us and him. But he rose from the dead. He conquered even death. To be with us. Because he loves us. That is the biggest truth.
Even if you don't agree with me or believe this to be true, I recommend you read these stories anyway. Think Princess Bride.
Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles ...
It is very apropos to our current time. The bible is truly an amazing literary thing.
So in this time of worry and fear and uncertainty, let the suffering we might experience produce a perseverance to handle what is tossed our way. Don't be cowed by fears; we are in this together. Let our new found perseverance give us a character that focuses on loving one another rather than one that feeds our selfish desires for the comfort of toilet paper. Let's not go to the grocery store with "mine, mine, mine" in mind. Let's cherish the good things in our life and hope in good things to come. Don't let our mere discomfort be confused for the greater suffering of those of us who have no food, get a pink slip, or lose a loved one. Heed the pleas of medical professionals to stay home. Wash your hands. Endure a little bit of stir-craziness for the sake of our common good. And most of all, cling to truth.