We tend to rock along in life tending to our basic needs, going to work, caring for our families, seeking diversions, creating comfortable routines. It’s easy to take things for granted and sometimes even become a bit bored with how our lives normally are. Then something happens that rocks the world, the death of a special person, a worrisome diagnosis from a doctor, a terrible accident, a betrayal of trust, a cataclysmic event. We have an instantaneous reaction that is often emotional and filled with fear. After a time we learn to deal with our new reality and if we are fortunate we learn truths about ourselves and the world around us.
A conundrum of being human is that we want order and a sense of normality in our lives while also desiring surprise and excitement to spice things up. Of course there is good change and bad change and we never want the latter, but unexpected events come to every human as surely as days become colder and shorter as winter arrives. There are periods of darkness for every person. They are as much a part of the cycle of life as happiness and light. Sometimes we have to endure challenges to fully appreciate our blessings.
My father’s death when I was eight years old changed me. First it sucked the joy out of my heart and I became a frightened and sad little child. Then it prompted me to be more aware of the importance of my connections with people. I began to make choices based on how they would affect my relationships with family and friends rather than how they would enrich my bank account or endow me with honors or titles. I understood with every fiber of my being that there is nothing on this earth more important than the people that we encounter as we pass through this life. I found both purpose and joy in dedicating my talents to helping my fellow humans.
Wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters destroy things and also sadly take lives. For most of us the loss of any person is a million times more horrific than losing possessions. We can rebuild the inanimate but we are never able to bring back the people who so suddenly left the world under horrific circumstances. When they are so quickly taken from us we long for just one more moment with them, one more opportunity to tell them how we actually feel about them, one more beautiful gift of embracing them. When we remember them it is always about the simplest of times, a smile, a laugh, a story, a shared experience.
Autumn and winter are coming in a time of pandemic. The leaves will fall from the trees and days will grow short. Our most festive holidays will come and we will approach a new year, a new beginning but somehow no matter how hard we try we cannot make any of our traditions feel the same way they did before Covid-19 invaded our lives. It is like the dreary times after a loved one dies. That first Thanksgiving without them is punctuated by the empty chair where they should be sitting. The first Christmas feels like walking through a bad dream because no matter how hard we try to be merry, we know that there is a huge hole in our hearts. So too will it undoubtedly be during the coming months.
The virus is still stalking us and we won’t be able to just wish it away but we can carry on in a different manner if we are willing to make some sacrifices. The number of cases of Covid-19 appear to be slowing. We have to be careful not to ascribe this good news to some idea that the virus has simply gone away when in fact our good fortune is more the result of the enforced precautions we have been recently taking. More people than ever are wearing masks in public. Distancing is being enforced at work, in schools, in churches, in stores and almost every aspect of our lives. We are avoiding crowds when possible and canceling events that might become super spreaders. Our actions have made it more and more difficult for the virus to find hosts, but it is still out there just waiting for us to become weary of the new routines and throw our caution to the wind.
The count of deaths in our country and even the world are also decreasing, not because the virus is any less dangerous than it initially seemed to be but because the medical community has shared observations and best practices from all over the world. Our scientists and doctors are learning more and more about Covid-19 and using that knowledge to save lives. They are like soldiers engaged in a military offense and we would do well to follow their advice and instructions. They are not traders in fear but rather dedicated individuals whose oaths insure that they do us no harm. We would do well to heed their cautions rather than placing our lives in the hands of politics. The medical community tell us to carry on with our masks and our distances and our hand washing. We would do well to listen because the virus is just waiting for our hubris to make us think that we are immune to its reach.
Those of us who are older like myself have a certain obligation to curtail risky behaviors so that the adult workforce may carry on with the business of life and the children will be able to continue their schooling. The Bible tells us that there is a time and season for everything. Now is the time and season to do whatever possible to keep the virus at bay. It does not mean totally shutting down life as we know it but it does entail making changes and sacrifices in the way we do things. It is the story of living. Nothing ever stays the same and perhaps it is best that it does not. The only constant is our capacity to care and to love enough to protect one another.
As winter comes do not fear but take charge of life by continuing to be cautious. That is the way forward. That is the way to take control. Wear masks. Keep a safe distance. Stay away from crowds. Wash your hands. Stay warm and find happiness in the quiet moments of life. Do your part to help us all.