Finding the bright spot in these scary times
As I write this, the world looks very different than it did a week ago, when I was gathering information for a totally different blog post. Coronavirus has come to West Virginia, and it’s very close to home: the first recorded case is in Shepherdstown. The panic shopping that my friends in the Washington, D.C. area have been contending with for a few weeks has now hit the Eastern Panhandle. It’s a scary time.
In addition to gloomy forecasts, safety tips and endless stories about toilet paper shortages (what is up with that?), the newspaper has begun printing stories about how people are coping with being forced to stay at home. I think this is an opportunity.
Americans are known for our busy lifestyles. Some American workers rarely take all of their vacation time, and if they do, they work through their vacations. Working parents run from business functions to soccer practice to PTA meetings, swinging by the drive-thru for dinner on the way home after a busy day. We take pride in our ability to multitask. It’s who we are.
And now, a pandemic has forced us to slow down. Stay home. Spend time with our families. My creative friends in D.C. have begun posting pictures on social media of what they are doing with their time: painting, quilting, baking. For some people, this enforced stillness is an opportunity to create.
Instead of being afraid of what is outside our doors, let’s concentrate on what is inside. Let’s really talk to our loved ones. Let’s play games, do crafts and learn new skills in the kitchen. Even a family movie night can bring people closer together. While we can’t ease each other’s fears about what could happen, we can give each other love, which is the best balm. Together, we can weather any storm.
This enforced stillness is also an opportunity to get in touch with ourselves and our faith. If you’ve been meaning to make time for meditation, now you can try it. Maybe you’ve been wanting to spend more time with the Bible. Now you can. A good choice might be reading the Gospel stories about Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Let yourself be soothed by the word of God.
If you want some guidance in your faith journey, there are devotionals – print and online – that can help. Some churches are streaming their services so parishioners can worship from home. You could find one and join in.
This is also a time that we need to care for each other. Reach out to friends who may be sheltering in place alone or elderly people whose assisted living facilities may be on lockdown just to see how they are. Write letters. Send emails. Call them up. Loneliness is sure to be a big byproduct of social distancing. We can still reach out to each other.
The headlines these days talk about businesses closing and laying off workers. Many, many people are suffering because of this pandemic and the economic implications. If it is in your ability to do so, make a donation to a group that will help those in need. If you do go out for groceries, buy extra and drop it off somewhere that is gathering food for the needy. Buy gift cards to local businesses. Tip extra when you are out or getting delivery. If you can help your local economy or the community, do it.
As for me, I’ll be at home for a while. I plan to exercise, take walks with my husband, weed the garden, cook some new dishes and do some long put-off sewing projects. I will ask God every day to help those in need, and I will find ways to provide help myself. Although my church will not be holding Easter services on Easter day, I will read the Easter story and remind myself of the wonderful gift God has provided through Jesus’ sacrifice and the forgiveness of our sins. If we give the weight of our worries to God, God will see us through.
And, like everyone else, I’ll be hoping that my toilet paper inventory holds out. As one of my favorite columnists in The Washington Post, Monica Hesse, wrote recently: “We are not in a state of emergency if you are down to your last three rolls of toilet paper. We are in a state of emergency if you have 96 rolls, and some people have no rolls, and you don’t care.”
That’s something to think about.
Lisa Gough is a member of the Christ Reformed United Church of Christ’s Web Committee.