Remember a week ago, when our kids were in school and we were carrying on with reckless behavior, like chatting over coffee or holding the door for strangers. Everything has changed, and in the past week the nation has quietly walked inside and closed their doors.
(And then there are people who aren’t staying home. If you’re one of those people, I invite you to Google: “should I stay home?”)
I keep hearing stories from different perspectives. We are only a few days into this nationwide quarantine, and there are so many stories. Graduations cancelled, weddings postponed, sparsely attended funerals, deployments extended. Think about the most special days or important plans you have had in your life. For someone, somewhere, that thing was happening in the next two weeks. And it’s cancelled.
What has emerged so quickly is proof that we are a people created for relationship. The pain of being cut off from others is not only inconvenient, it is deep and painful. Everything we do is possible, special, and worth doing because of other people.
We feel it acutely even in this age where we can have anything delivered to our doorstep, we can get medical care virtually, and we can video chat with friends and family without inconvenience or cost. None of it is the same as sharing space, shaking hands.
A friend of ours encouraged Tom and me to use this time to consider people who live lives in isolation — the lonely, incarcerated, the chronically-ill, the mentally-ill.
The discomfort and desire for contact we are feeling is a reminder to pray for people who effectively live their lives in quarantine.
It’s strange to think that the most caring thing we can do is to stay away from each other. My current Instagram and Facebook feeds are flooded with ideas for how to occupy kids at home, and I saw the idea to make cards for people in nursing homes who cannot have visitors. It’s perfect, bringing together kids who need to be busy and the isolated elderly who could use encouragement. It’s a simple, brilliant idea, and I believe gestures like that are what will get us through this time of isolation.
We’re not used to this, but we can do it. We can connect without touching. We can love our neighbors by checking in, but staying away. We can do it; we can figure it out. People in Italy are doing aerobics on their balconies and singing from their windows. Even when we are apart, people who were created to be in relationship will find a way to come together.
My family will be home, with almost no exceptions. But we are also looking for ways to stay connected. There are a lot of needs, and as many stories of cancelled plans there are stories of people sharing their gifts for the greater good.
We’ll get through it, together.