LIVING TOGETHER IN ISOLATION
By NANCY PATRICK
Weird! Weird! Weird! That word describes my world during this pandemic. I thank God that danger, exhaustion, sacrifice, and life-threatening do not describe my daily life.
This period of COVID-19 isolation, illness, shortage, and death has invaded my life in an unprecedented way. The closest similarities, World War II and the Great Depression, differed greatly from the present circumstances. Actual shortages and economic distress marked those historical events whereas today’s invisible enemy manifests itself in disbelief, shock, incredulity, anger, fear, and resistance.
In spite of the negative reactions, I have looked for evidence of positive results around me. Happily, I have discovered a new appreciation for the mundane.
One lesson has taught me that too much statistical news about the virus can overwhelm me with a sense of grief and hopelessness. Therefore, I try to balance that news coverage with the many reports and observations of positive actions among people across our country and around the world.
A surprising appreciation came to me through New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. I had no idea the governor’s character exudes such caring, personable, passionate, and brilliant elements.
In his daily updates about the horrors New Yorkers experience, he connects with people, sharing anecdotes about his family, his concerns for the ill, the medical providers, the first responders, the attempts to obtain necessary medical equipment and protective wear for doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel.
Governor Cuomo humbly admits his exhaustion, his grief over his inability to provide needed supplies, his sorrow for all those suffering, and even his frustration with citizens who refuse to abide by safety rules. He makes us feel that he relates to us on a human level.
In addition, I have discovered a profound new appreciation for medical personnel. As the nurses, doctors, and other caregivers share their experience in interviews, I weep with them as they share their fear of contracting the virus themselves or passing it to their families. They do not threaten to quit; rather, they plead for all of us to empathize with others and do our part in social responsibility.
Many neighbors where these workers live now line the streets to applaud them as they come home from another long shift at the hospital. Even with hugging banned, these neighbors show appreciation and compassion for what their fellow citizens sacrifice for them.
On a personal level, I have observed and experienced the humanity we share at the spiritual level. For example, a British family recorded a song of hope and gifted it to our country via the internet. City dwellers in urban areas go to their balconies at designated times to “visit” neighbors or applaud medical staff and first responders.
Neighbors share needed items with other neighbors via the website Nextdoor.com and Facebook. Some offer meals and other services for those unable to care for their own needs. Others stand on their porches or sidewalks and talk or wave to those near them.
Some neighborhood associations share a common space in which they can meet (with proper distancing), read scripture, share thoughts, and pray. These neighbors find ways to connect while remaining within safety guidelines.
The Abilene school district has begun stationing Wi-Fi equipped buses at various locations around town to provide students with the ability to do school assignments. These above-and-beyond measures speak volumes about our need to work together and stay connected to others.
Many musicians have begun playing their instruments outdoors for their neighbors to enjoy. Even professional entertainers have donated performances online to help with people’s boredom and sense of loneliness.
One of the sweetest gestures I’ve received came in a note from a twenty-year-old neighbor who remains at home, furloughed from her college classes. Through a beautifully handwritten message, she became my pen pal. Without hesitation, I reciprocated with my own handwritten letter—in spite of my arthritic hand!
Regardless of the hardship for many and the inconvenience for all, people find ways to connect even while isolated. I have discovered the absolute beauty of virtual choirs, an idea originated by Eric Whitacre over a decade ago but really catching on now that people cannot gather to sing or play music. You can find information about him and access many virtual performances on YouTube.
Also, most churches have found ways to broadcast their services via the internet. Some of the larger churches actually have paid live programming, but those that do not can film a service and post it online so the church members can stay in virtual contact.
My son, Jason, pastors Menokin Baptist Church, a small church in the Northern Neck of Virginia. They do not have to ability to live stream, so one of the church members meets Jason on Saturday to tape a restructured version of the church service. After that link appears on the church’s Facebook page, I can join in my son’s services along with his parishioners.
The current global crisis has cultivated some of the best human behavior. One such product relates to a new awareness of individual service at all levels—food deliverers, home health care workers, restaurant drive-through servers, pharmacists, and grocery store employees whose jobs have continued. Many more service providers (waitstaff, hair stylists, manicurists, and others) find themselves with no income as their places of business have closed temporarily.
If you have ever thought or used the term “lowly” to refer to service occupations, I hope you will join me in striking it off our vocabulary lists. Service is a high calling, regardless of the amount of the paycheck, and servants deserve our appreciation for their service. In fact, doesn’t the Bible call each of us to serve with a servant’s heart?
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing