Friday, April 17, 2020

Pandemic Thoughts

The onset of this pandemic has changed our lives and shifted our perspectives in some very impactful ways. It’s brought many things to mind besides just health and sickness, flattening a curve, and remembering to wash our hands thoroughly. Obviously, those things are of utmost importance and what I'm about to say is certainly not to ignore the serious affect this sickness is having on people, especially those who are most at risk. But for myself, and so many others, a resounding topic from the walls of quarantine has been the discussion of what we’ve taken for granted. From fully packed grocery store shelves and open restaurants to normal work days and family gatherings, a new appreciation for the simple things is growing.

I miss my family and friends. My kids miss their cousins, classmates and teachers. They miss running up the street, grabbing a friend or two, and playing until dinner time. We miss church. We miss worship, fellowship, and youth group. We miss going out to eat. We miss hitting up the library on a rainy day and going out for frozen yogurt. We miss normal days where we didn’t have to think twice before we did basically anything to make sure it was in line with social distancing and stay home orders. It’s been a strange adjustment. People who know each other around town have to stop before greeting one another in a warm and physical way. The comfort of a hug and the feel of a firm handshake has been temporarily taken from us. Even a friendly conversation with a neighbor has become more difficult from the safety of social distance. Screaming at another person across the grass just isn't pleasant.

Let’s face it, we have taken so much for granted.
But a few weeks deep into the new pandemic way of life, where most of us have had some extra time to think about what we’re missing and how things have changed, I find myself looking my privilege in the face. It’s unpleasant. It’s eye opening. It involves some things people would prefer not to think about, like hunger and abuse. But it’s real.

When I look inside my cart and see a pared down grocery haul (only the essentials!), I roll my eyes because I didn’t even find everything I wanted. But to someone around the world, maybe even the person behind me in line, my half-filled cart holds more than they’ve ever been able to afford or have access to. Some people have struggled to acquire toilet paper and other toiletries since long before the idea became the subject of hilarious memes.

When I get frustrated with teaching my kids at home, I think about the essential working parents who are also (somehow) supposed to be teaching their kids at home. I think about the teachers who are helping me teach my kids, but also teaching their own kids. (No, seriously. How are they all doing this?!)

When I get irritated with my kids for being too noisy, bickering with each other, and eating all the food in the house, I wish they could just go back to school already. But then I’m reminded that somewhere out there is a parent wishing they could see their kid(s) more often; or a couple struggling with infertility who aches for noisy children in their home to break up the silence.

There are husbands, wives, and children whose time spent sheltering at home is an elevated version of a daily horror story, due to domestic abuse and neglect.

There are foster kids out there who adjust to a different normal every few weeks, sometimes on a day to day basis. Some of them carry around every single item they own in a trash bag from home to home, never knowing what kind of environment they will have to get used to that week or which school they will attend for the next few months before moving along again.

There are kids of ALL ages whose meals primarily come from school/daycare but they aren’t even able to take advantage of the lunch program right now because their parents, grandparents, or caregivers don’t have a way to get there. Some may not even know about it.

It’s easy to get irritated when the Wi-Fi signal is low and I can’t access social media or my child’s new virtual classroom, but then some people don’t have internet to work, learn, or keep them busy and connected to the world. Some don’t have running water and other basic necessities either. I’m not trying to be dramatic. I’m just being real and offering perspective. No one has it easy, I get that. But some people have it really really hard all the time, pandemic aside.

I could go on. I could really lay out how good some of us truly have it. And it’s not to make anyone feel bad or negate what they’re going through right now. Like I said, we are all struggling with stuff and facing our own hardships. And the current state of the world certainly seems to magnify those difficult parts. But the simple truth is that there are people throughout this entire world, and even right in our own neighborhoods, communities and schools, who are forced to stare into the face of what they lack every single day and in much more powerful, life changing ways than us. And in times like this, it’s a whole lot worse for them.

Can I change the world by simply wishing things were better for everyone? No, I cannot. But I can bring attention to their struggles. I can research more volunteer opportunities and outreach programs in my area, get involved, and encourage others to do the same.  I may not be able to do anything huge, but I can do small things that cause ripples and change lives. There are numerous opportunities in my community (and yours!) to take advantage of. There’s always something more I could be doing. And I can certainly begin by keeping my complaining to a minimum. Because someone always has it worse than me. That’s an unpopular opinion but an undeniable fact, when you really take the time to think about what other people are going through.

I know that soon enough, this will all be over and we’ll adjust to yet another new normal. We’ll definitely make jokes about social distance and that one time when we weren’t allowed to leave the house. But we’ll also talk about how we overcame a difficult time in our country together -- a scary time of sickness, death, and economic hardship. We’ll talk about how excited we were to hug people and go out to eat again. We'll handle a common cold or a stuffy nose with new attitudes and grateful hearts, I'm sure. We’ll reschedule all of our events, catch up, and eat lots of birthday cake together. There will be normal shopping trips, new haircuts, and a general appreciation for the world around us.
But I also hope we come out of this with some extra compassion, empathy, and a drive to make positive changes in the lives of people whose return to normal didn’t look like ours or change at all. We can do that, too, right?


3 comments:

  1. This is so well written. Very intelligent and thoughtful. We all need to think about more than just ourselves, not just now but always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I'm so grateful for your feedback.

      Delete
  2. Jheri, I can't tell you the tears I shed reading this! So well written. And put so eloquently the feelings of many of us! Thank you, sweet friend. Much 💘

    ReplyDelete