I canceled a service contractor’s visit to our home today. I can hardly believe that common sense demanded that I do that. I basically made a decision that it was in our best interest not to have a couple of strange men from another city roll into our driveway and do a couple hours work inside our home. It was an appointment that had been on the calendar for a while. Who knew weeks ago that April 6 would come to this?
I have an employee who was exposed to a confirmed case of the virus this past weekend. It was so unfortunate. His Aunt drove down to visit on Saturday. She drove over a hundred miles from another town to visit family. She felt fine. She hugged everyone. When she got home Sunday evening. she developed a fever and cough. At least she called to tell her nephew. Now he’s out of work for two weeks because of her carelessness. I hope he’s okay and his time off is not longer than the two weeks.
I listened to a radio interview this evening that featured an old childhood friend of mine who is getting over the virus right now. Day 22, she said. (I have to be careful here. I know she’ll be reading this. Hi Jan. I’m grateful that so many prayers have been sent up on your behalf.) She has been through the ringer with this thing. She said her head felt like it was detached. She couldn’t eat. She’s lost her sense of taste. Almost coughed up both lungs. She couldn’t even watch The Andy Griffith Show. That’s how sick she was.
A customer came by the tree farm this afternoon. He stuck out his hand to shake and I didn’t even flinch. My hands stayed in my pockets. I was so self-conscious. He was apologetic. It’s hard to remember not to do something that you’ve been accustomed to doing for years like it’s a natural reflex. We never touched, but he took an invoice from my hands and I took a check from his. When our visit was over, I went inside and washed my hands.
These are the stories that are defining our journey these days.
I used to think, “Boy, wish I could just get away for a spell. Get away from work. Get away from people. Just go hibernate for a while. Let the world just pass me by. I could use some time off away from everything and everybody.”
I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who has ever thought that.
Well, here we are. I’m not so sure this is what I had in mind.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m still working. I still have something close to a normal routine going on. But everything else is on the fritz.
No gathering of the Church. No desserts at the carry in dinner. No Friday night pizza. No grilling out with friends. Until recently, long lines outside at the big box hardware store. Red tape lines and Xs on the floor showing me where to stand. Hand sanitizer offered to me at the door. Now, no more trips to the store. No visits from the kids and grandchildren. Lots of pictures and video chats help, but ghee whiz, I miss them.
I am probably a complete wuss. It’s only been a couple weeks of any serious quarantine. What if I was really alone? Sequestered from family and friends and all normal activity for months? A year?
I think that I will be more aware of life from here on out. I hope I am. I’m afraid that it won’t last long, but right now I want to pledge to pay more attention. To the little things that go almost unnoticed. Things that should never be taken for granted.
When this is over, I’ll never walk into a restaurant again without being grateful for the privilege. I’ll never go over to a friend’s house without realizing how lucky I am. I’ll never sit in church again without feeling like an honored guest. I’ll never walk into a hospital without a sense of reverence for those who serve. I’ll never set a date on the calendar without the understanding that my plans are temporary. I’ll never offer a hug without appreciating the value of human contact. I’ll never stand in line at the grocery store again without an awareness that the shelves could be empty.
If this quarantine of ours saves lives, we are all for it. Those who suffer and who have lost loved ones need and deserve our prayers. But this quarantine may just save us all in ways we have not yet imagined.
Maybe it will make us just a little more compassionate. Maybe it will make us a little more grateful. A little more aware. A little more focused on the needs of others instead of our own. A little more willing to serve the greater good and not bent on getting what’s best for me first.
I imagine families changing for the better. I imagine more smiles. I imagine playing in the yard making a comeback. I imagine more tenderness and less rage. I imagine more singing. I imagine new friends for life. I imagine sweet rest rather than restlessness. I imagine baseball played on corner lots. I imagine High School seniors walking across a stage in the middle of summer. I imagine sitting by the river and watching the day end. I imagine more doors being held open. I imagine more prayers from the heart. I imagine a better world all the way around.
Look, I know it’s pie in the sky for me to hope for these things. Life will change for a while, but we’ll probably go back to being us before too long. We are a stubborn race, this human race. We suffer from short term memory loss. We might just forget how horrible this all is right now. I hope not. I hope we learn something so invaluable that we never forget.
My shower contractor will eventually come. My employee will get back to work. My friend is getting better. My customers and I will one day shake hands again. We all hope that normal finds its way back sooner than later.
Until then, imagine a better world and live in it while you can.