We Were Not Ready For This

coronavirus

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We were not ready for this. Literally. None of our bodies were ready for Covid-19, a novel coronavirus to which none of us are immune.

We could discuss whether our respective countries were ready for this. Frankly, that’s a quagmire I’d prefer to avoid. I wonder, given the infectiousness of the virus, its ability to spread before people are symptomatic, and how easily we travel from one point on the globe to another whether this would have been possible to prevent. Don’t want to get in an argument on that one though…

It’s plain that many of us were not ready economically. This exposes the vulnerabilities and inequities in our economic systems in many countries. Many live paycheck to paycheck, or even day to day. Few have the six months of savings financial advisors recommend.

Our supply chains were not ready for the hoarding of toilet paper, or infections to run through a key sector of business, like meat-packing facilities.

We weren’t ready with our health. Some of the vulnerabilities to this disease reflect poor habits of self-care: diet, exercise, tobacco use that make lungs, hearts, and kidneys more vulnerable.

What has struck me most profoundly is that we weren’t ready spiritually.

We have a hard time being home-bound, if we are blessed to have homes or apartments. Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” When stay at home orders or recommendations extend beyond a few weeks, I’ve noticed the increased restlessness, even though people can get out to walk, buy groceries and necessities, take walks or drives, and go to work if required. Why our restlessness of heart, and what does this say of us?

We weren’t ready for a problem that didn’t yield to a quick human solution. We are anxious at what we cannot control. We are impatient at what cannot be set to rights in a manner of weeks. We are frustrated that those in authority have no solution that can restart our economy and keep all of us safe from infection. Many of us avoid thinking that it might take a year or more for this pandemic to be done with us, before we can truly go back to life the way it was, if we ever can go back. What does our anger and rancor reveal when the truth is that we all are faced with something not faced in our lifetimes, something for which we don’t have a roadmap?

We weren’t ready, and I speak particularly as an American, for a world where the “big ME” has to take a back seat to “we’re in this together.” Some are doing some amazing things from the medical personnel and first responders who risk their lives to care for others, to the many people who have stepped up to provide for people in desperate need. But it troubles me in a situation where any of us could be infected without knowing it, that people would refuse to wear a mask to protect others, including those who stock the shelves of their grocery, who fill their prescriptions, or for the elderly who have ventured out to buy their groceries. What is missing in our lives when my personal comfort and convenience ranks above the protection of others who may be vulnerable?

Our online behavior of recent years hasn’t prepared us for this, and I’ve become aware of my own bent inclinations in this regard. I find myself spending far too much time following the back and forth of “exposés” and rebuttals, of debates about where blame is to be placed, of protecting lives, and protecting livelihoods. I find myself angered more than I’d like to admit and depressed, and in my worst moments caught up in this stuff. A wake up call came for me a few days ago when I learned that a former colleague, a dear friend, was seriously ill with Covid-19. I realized how none of this had anything to offer my friend, or me. I was reduced to prayer, to going to “the rock that is higher” to find help for my friend, and to still the anxious concern I had for him. Thanks be to God that as I write it appears that he has turned a corner.

I wasn’t ready for this. These months have laid bare the unseemly and the shallow and the poorly formed in my life. And I suspect this process is not yet finished. The question is will I just give way to such things, or pretend they are not there, even though I catch them lurking in my life in those moments of insight? Will I justify such things, clothing them in talk of my rights or freedoms, or will I confess the ugliness, the unhealthy habits of mind and body, and find help in community with others who share my faith? Will I allow the stillness and solitude to lay bare my heart and heal it? Will I surrender the illusion of control that has been shattered by these events and listen with hope for the bidding of what is within my reach?

None of us were ready for this. I’m not sure there was a way we could have been. Perhaps instead of trying to figure out what we will make of this, the question we might ask is, what will we allow all this to make of us?

 

8 thoughts on “We Were Not Ready For This

  1. I have struggled with your thoughts also. Me or the flip-side We. I am reminded of a book Pendulum , Williams and Drew, who model that issue thru the past history. To believe in their premise one way or the other is no so important as their perspective of of how to effectively deal with Me or We. How a Me deals with We, and a We deals with Me has happened before. The key is effective dealing not war.

    Stay healthy.Bill Pope, Chaney Cowboy 1965

  2. I love the Pascal quote! I am largely an introvert and own a bookstore – but my wife handles the customer service while I do operations, online and warehouse. The past 2 months my stress level is much higher because almost all of my work time now involves dealing with people endlessly online to achieve sales rather than having the normal crowds browsing the aisles. We are working 5X harder for 20% of normal income. But my “off time” (maybe 8 hrs a day now) has always been at home, sitting quietly, not shopping or partying or driving anywhere, certainly not socializing as I get enough of that dealing with customers even in normal times. Listening to music or having the news on in the background as I read books or articles online (like yours!). I have no problem with this lockdown. My lifestyle was already isolated.

    • I think those with lifestyles like yours are doing better with this time–many are introverts. But I understand the challenges of online work. I probably spend four or more hours of many workdays on Zoom and there is a growing literature about Zoom fatigue. Thanks for taking time out to write!

  3. Insightful and to the point. In the fourteenth century the religious leaders of Orvieto, Italy, decided to build a cathedral. Its construction took only 350 years. Can you imagine today our leaders asking us to make sacrifices so that generations from now our descendent would benefit? This is one of the problems with democracy: we vote for those who promise us rainbows and rose gardens. It is a fact that for at least three decades scientists have been tellling us that a world wide pandemic would occur.
    Last August the United States closed a US staffed laboratory in Wuhan, China, establised three decades ago to help prepare us. It had identified 60 various Corona viruses that required surveillance. Today the scientists are telling us that we are closer to the beginning than the end and that the only weapons in our arsenal are nationwide testing and social distancing. What has become of the people who in 1942 flooded recruitment centers, rationed gasoline, meat, and groceries, who went without to fight the enemy of that era? The sacrifices asked of us today pale in comparison.

    • Joe, many good points here. We both have parents who remember sacrifice, and would simply say, “there is a war on.” You are right about the lack of surveillance when it was all too apparent that something like this could occur. I find myself wondering, “will we remember?”

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