I've been leaving my home the past couple of weeks. I haven't gone far - but it's been enough to see how much the world I've become accustomed to has changed the past few months. I planned carefully for my first excursion into what seemed like a great abyss beyond the four walls of my home and the yard I have been so carefully tending. I've been watching the news like everyone else, trying to weigh what I was being told, and promising myself that I would do whatever the people in charge thought was prudent so I wouldn't become part of the problem. I counted down the days until my prescriptions ran out, sewed a number of masks from heavy flannel left over from baby quilts and doll clothes I had been making for my granddaughter, and then got up before dawn the last Tuesday morning in April so I could make it to Walmart during the time specified for seniors. The sun was just starting to rise beyond the horizon when I pulled into the parking lot and put on the uncomfortable and unaccustomed mask we had been told to wear. I wanted to be brave enough to enter the building without it, but after seven weeks of staying at home because of age and underlying health conditions, I decided to remain cautious.
I was met at the entrance to the building by a young man in a similar mask who asked if I was over sixty. When I told him I was, he stepped aside and let me enter. Few people were in the store, but I still hurried to the pharmacy and picked up what I had come for. Then I walked up and down a few of the aisles, often missing the arrows that told me which way I was supposed to be going, and began filling my cart with some of the things I had run out of during the weeks I had refrained from shopping. I felt moments of alarm when some of the items I needed were already gone and felt as if I was part of some horror movie when others looked away or ducked their heads instead of saying something welcoming and friendly like they usually did. I kept asking myself why something we were supposed to be in together was pulling us so far apart. By the time I left, I was nearly in tears. This wasn't the world I had known before, and I didn't want to live like this.
I know many of you have felt the same way as you've struggled to make sense of an almost unbelievable situation that has brought so much sorrow, concern and near terror and has plunged the economy of numerous countries into a downward spiral that won't be easy to stop or restore. It isn't fun to step from the known and acceptable into the turmoil we now face as members of the human race, but it can be done once step at a time. I discovered that for myself as I went to Walmart for a second time last week and then branched out by going to a local market. I spoke to everyone who would look at me, even though I could scarcely breathe through the cumbersome mask and my glasses were a little foggy. I knew I couldn't do anything to stop what was happening, but I couldn't let fear, doubt and uncertainty control me any longer. I could still brighten someone's day by being kind and cheerful and letting them know that I appreciated the service they were willing to give.
Perplexing questions still fill my mind, but I feel more confident about getting on with my life now. The valves underneath the sink in my guest bathroom began to leak - saturating every towel and roll of toilet paper I had stored underneath the cabinet - before I realized what was happening. I took pictures of the the problem and went to Lowe's to get what I needed so my son could fix the problem last Friday. I even went back the next day to get a cap so the pipe in the basement wall would quit dripping, and today I went to see the doctor for my semi-annual checkup. Those may sound like simple things, but sometimes baby steps are all we can take when trying to move into a new reality. It isn't easy to be interrogated upon entering a building, have your temperature taken, or be given a mask to wear if you don't already have one, but most of the people making the rules are simply doing the best they can to help protect others. I believe everyone has the right to make his or her own decisions, but I choose to look out for the people around me. I know I'm not contagious, but the severity of my allergies can raise a few eyebrows when I cough, sneeze or blow my nose. I don't want anyone feeling unsafe around me.
But through all of this, the greatest changes for me have come from within as I've spent additional time reflecting on what is most important in my life: family, faith, friends, a work to do that has value, discovering more about my posterity and listening with real intent to others. I've learned to rely on God and my Savior to give clarity to unanswerable questions. I've experienced the solace and peace of mind that comes with additional prayer, scripture study and filling my home with uplifting music. I've spent more time working in my yard, putting scrapbook pages together and taking care of mending that never gets done. I've looked for ways I can reach out to others who might need someone to lean on. I've baked treats for others, made it a point to speak to every neighbor when I see them and try to reflect on what Christ would do if he was walking in my shoes.
I don't know what the future is going to bring. It might be different from anything we have known before, but that shouldn't stop us from loving and caring for each other. Even if it is awkward and uncomfortable since we're supposed to be practicing social distancing, we still need to be friendly, kind, patient and accommodating when we can. The part I play in this world may be small, but I intend to do what I can to make it a better place. I can hardly wait until congregations can worship together again, children can return to school and so many people no longer have to worry about going hungry, losing their homes or their lives or being afraid. I know God is with those of us who turn to him. His arms are ever open to help and guide us, and he will bring peace of mind and daily protection from things that will bring us harm. A little soulful reflection can be a very good thing.
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