It seems like we’ve been waiting for something like this, anticipating it, expecting it, but it doesn’t look like what we thought it would look like. We still have running water and electricity. Most everyone we know is healthy.
A few people I know have been shouting for a few weeks now about covid-19, and in retrospect they are the ones who’ve understood the potential gravity of the situation. In the Bible, Noah was an alarmist, and as the story goes, he saved his family. Maybe if more people had listened to him he wouldn’t have ended up drunk and depressed and alone on the planet with just his kin.
I don’t feel lonely at home, but I know that’s not true for lots of people. The extroverts I know are struggling with this. They are devastated by the closures, by having to stay isolated, by not being able to attend the events they’d been looking forward to. The introverts seem to feel a sense of relief. Finally, we don’t have to push ourselves to go out and do things when what we really want is to stay at home where our lives are rich and full and where we are never bored.
I wonder how long I’d have to stay home before boredom set in. There’s a part of me that would like to find out.
The library where I work is now closed to the public. I think about a few of our patrons who don’t have homes to putter around, who don’t have a stocked pantry or a wood stove. I think about the kiddos who use the library as more than just a place to play video games and hang out with their friends.
I think about my friends who are trying to get home from France right now. They have dogs and chickens and jobs to get back to, but will they first have to go through a gauntlet of crowded airport terminals and testing upon their arrival?
Speaking of chickens, I wonder how the supply of chicken feed at Save-U-More is holding up. I wonder if it’s another one of those things that people bought up in the great shopping frenzy of Friday the 13th. I was going to stop by on my lunch break on Friday for some Rugged English Cheddar and canned tomatoes, but the parking lot was full of people loading up their trucks with bottled water and bags of flour. If all the chicken pellets are gone I guess I’ll have to get creative.
Creativity might just be the thing that saves us. Our lives are largely run on autopilot and this might be one of those times when we’re called on to be more resilient, more imaginative, more willing to try new things. Under the surface of all of this, there is some serious potential.
The thing about potential is that it is run by free will. We have the potential to make this a time that we look back on with awe and wonder at how well we cooperated with one another.
I might look back on it as the time I created my own chicken feed out of decades-old pasta and dried nettles. It would be inconvenient, but I could manage to keep my eleven hens and one rooster alive until the ground thaws.
It’s inconvenient for all the nations of world to have to deal with a singular crisis at the same time. Usually catastrophes are parceled out. A hurricane here, an earthquake there. Famines and refugees in faraway lands while we go on with our day-to-day lives. There’s something humbling about an indiscriminate virus that’s making its way around the globe.
Speaking of viral, I tried to give up Twitter and Facebook for Lent. I gave them up for myself rather than for God and so I’ve granted myself forgiveness for logging on to the social media platforms before Holy Saturday. These are unusual times and I wanted to see what other people had to say about what’s going on in the world.
Most of the people I’m connected with are dealing with this virus, with the closures, with the social distancing (had I even heard of that term before last week?) just like I am. They’re trying to figure out how to respond to something that most of us have never had to deal with. I find that sense of camaraderie heartening.
A few of the people I’m connected with seem unconcerned and unbothered. They think that those of us who are concerned are being duped.
And I get it. When we think we’re under attack, it’s easy to let fear guide our choices. So instead of believing there is something to be afraid of, these people believe that we’re being made to feel fearful.
If all goes well and we’re able to flatten the curve and minimize the immediate crisis that this virus has the potential to cause, we’ll have done our job. Sometimes a job well done is hard to measure.
When it’s all over, how will we measure how many people didn’t die? Will the folks who think we’re being duped look at the low numbers of the deceased and say, “See, it wasn’t so bad!”
We’ll have financial fallout to contend with when all of this is over and as it always goes, money is easier to measure than life. How will we measure the collective three, five, fifteen years of extra life that will be granted to those who are able to get the medical care they need to survive this virus? How will we measure all that they still have to offer? Their humor, their insight, their wisdom? What about all the love they have to give and receive?
And so it comes down to time. We’re putting the extended life of potentially millions of people in the bank by trying to slow down Covid-19.
Remember that saying about money and time? If you have one you don’t have the other.
If the cruise ships don’t come to Alaska this summer, if the tourists decide not to travel here, if the restaurants and stores stay closed, the budget that determines my paycheck will certainly be impacted.
I could get caught up in the worry about what lies ahead as far as my family’s finances are concerned. We all could.
But instead I can focus on this beautiful, unprecedented, unexpected thing that seems to be happening.
We’re closing up shop around the globe because we believe humans are worth saving, and we’re being given an opportunity to prove to each other that it was the right choice.
From my house I can see glaciers, mountains, the amazing Kachemak Bay and occasionally a moose family or a bear (but not Russia.) I write--primarily but not exclusively fiction--and work part time in a library.
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