Faith in the Face of Coronavirus Isolation

Monday, April 6, 2020

The numbers of COVID-19 infections and casualties are skyrocketing, health officials are telling us to expect it to get worse, and even our President says "there will be a lot of death" in coming weeks.  We're sewing masks and wearing them out on our essential errands, while medical personnel do not have the protective equipment they need.  People are losing jobs, taking pay cuts, unable to pay bills, going hungry.  We're sheltering in place, isolated and missing people.  These are scary times.

Where does faith fit in all of this?  I'm not talking about religion today -- I'm talking about a deep, steadfast belief that we will get through this.  How do we keep believing, when the news seems so dire?  With so much uncertainty and so much suffering, where do we find hope?  And how do we face the fear, day after day?  Surely I'm not the only one trying to figure this out. 

I've got kids in the house.  They're trying to make sense of their world being turned upside down, their expectations shifting, their routines being upended.  They're being asked to change the way they live, but they do not fully understand why.

And isn't this is true of all of us?  We're being forced to give up so much and to accept a reality that none of us want.  Anxiety is running high as we try to adapt to this challenge that seems to change daily, and as we try to figure out what our new normal looks like.  When we tune into the news, there is pain everywhere -- pain in the sickness and dying, the inadequate response, the medical realities, the economic consequences, the knowledge that this will have immense, long-lasting effects.

How, when faced with this pain and anxiety, do we keep faith?  How do we stay strong for our kids?  

When I stop and think about this, I always come back to one thing -- people across the world are taking bold action for the greater good.  Look around, and you will see signs of unity in this battle.

As far as this virus is concerned, we are all equal.  Wealth, skin color, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or identity, age, political views, fame -- none of it matters to COVID-19.  Sure, some may be at a higher risk than others, statistically, and some are better able to isolate than others, and I don't want to minimize that.  But the bottom line here is that the virus is proving it does not discriminate and no one gets a pass.  When was the last time that humans across the world were on equal footing?

Knowing that we are all at risk, leaders are making hard decisions to try to keep us all safe.  With human and economic consequences on the line, our leaders are educating people about the pandemic, issuing orders, trying to ensure health care workers have the equipment they need, and trying to keep the essential functions of our society going.

And people are making huge sacrifices.  We are staying home, washing hands, making and wearing masks, helping educate our children, finding new ways to work, giving up plans and dreams.  In short, we are accepting tremendous inconvenience and challenge in hopes of helping protect our most vulnerable and ensuring that our community health resources can manage the outcome.
So what do "flatten the curve," "slow the spread," "social distancing," and "safer at home" really mean?  They mean we care for our neighbors.  We sacrifice so that others may live.  We make choices with our health care workers in mind.  Our actions speak loudly -- we are in this together, we are stronger together, and we will get through this together.

That is where I find faith.  In our solidarity, our humanity, our courage. 

Now, I'm not saying that's all I see.  Not at all.  I see plenty that keeps me up at night and causes me great concern.  But I try to redirect my thoughts to the positive:

We are slowing down, living in the here and now, finding beauty and joy in simplicity.  We are not racing around from one activity to the next, buying so much that we don't need, feeling constantly overscheduled and overcommitted.  Instead, we take walks together, listen to music, talk.

We are finding new ways to connect with people.  Zoom happy hours, Facebook Live dance parties, Netflix party movie nights, online book clubs and recitals.  Thanks to the Internet, we can still socialize while social distancing.

Churches are livestreaming worship services, choirs are singing over Zoom, congregations are using technology to reach out to community members.  People who cannot get moving on Sunday mornings can now tune in anytime.  

Remember what Mr. Rogers said about looking for the helpers?  We don't have to look far to find health care workers, law enforcement and first responders, teachers, sanitation workers, transportation workers, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, community leaders, and all sorts of folks who are working tirelessly to get us through this.

We're still laughing.  Funny memes, ridiculous TV shows, Amazon reviews.  Comic relief always helps, even during a pandemic.

We're adaptable and resilient.  We're learning new ways to greet each other, go to school, go to work, interact, exercise.  We're figuring out how to stay productive.  We're learning to listen to our hearts and our bodies in ways we haven't in a while.  We are proving to ourselves that we can withstand change and handle hard things.

We're compassionate.  We see and understand that this is hard on everyone, so we show grace and patience.  We express gratitude.  Since I mentioned Mr. Rogers earlier, I'll mention him again -- he's got a song about the many ways to say I Love You.  Well, folks, we're all saying "I love you, neighbor" in all sorts of ways right now.

People are spreading kindness and joy.  An accordion player makes music on his porch at noon each day.  A neighbor dropped off lima beans for my son's Zoom dissection.  Teddy bear hunts in neighborhoods.  Inspiring signs in yards and chalk messages on sidewalks. There's some great stuff going on out there.

People are recovering.  There are a lot of people who have contracted the virus, their bodies have fought it, and now they have antibodies.  They will be in a position to help.  Some are even donating plasma in hopes that it will offer a new treatment option.  The number of people with antibodies will rise exponentially in coming weeks. 

There are some good reasons to be hopeful.  Keep the faith, friends.