Of course we are now all self-monitoring, all self-isolating and all very, very concerned about being part of the virus transmission mechanism. Even though I am ‘clear’ in respect of my travel, I cannot be sure anyone I contact is clear. So I must continue with minimal exposure, as much isolation as possible and abide by the severe strictures laid down from on high with respect to movement and gatherings.
Church is shut down, not just on Sundays, on everyday. All public gathering places, restaurants, bars, theatres, concert venues, healthcare centres, schools, universities, etc are closed or restricted. People walk past me on the trails with nervous smiles. Almost no one stops to talk.
My parents are self-isolating in Kamloops (where at least other family members are in proximity). Laurel’s mom is isolated in her Victoria apartment, Brenna, Jeremiah and Isaac are isolated in their Courtenay apartment, where even mid-wives no longer visit.
In their cases I think of senior’s isolation and all we know about that malaise. About post-partum and all we know of that. It’s not only our parents, our daughter. There are many more besides. What of them? It’s not a ‘blame’ question, rather a wondering. What do we do to protect newborn and ‘experienced’ folk from the one, without inflicting the other?
What of the folk who would come to the church to pray? Especially in these times. What of our congregation who are so socially minded? Some only see others on Sunday mornings? What of those who come to us for other forms of care, support and nurture? So much happens in groups, with random travellers who drop in to see what help might be available. Where will they go, how will these needs be met? How will homeless people ‘isolate’? Where will they find food?
What will low wage people working retail do without that work? Small business owners without income? Landlords without rent to cover their mortgages? So many are affected by these efforts to act for the greater good. Will the greater support the good? The ones affected not only by Covid-19, but by the shutdowns intended to shut it down.
As we move about town, grocery stores are monitoring numbers of people in and out. Six foot separation marks on the floor inside before cashiers and outside before entrances are staffed by careful watchers. We are not permitted to move beyond the safety zones.
I both understand and am reminded of the restrictions in Palestine and Gaza. A friend tells me of on line posts from Palestinians in Gaza remarking on 18 years of trying to get permission to go beyond the boundaries set out by Israel. I know the same is true for the West Bank. Parents in Tulqu’, whose children are abducted (not arrested, just taken) by the Israeli military are not given permission to visit those children in their Israeli prisons because they have a family member held in an Israeli prison.
I struggle in the comparison but live with it in the interests of protecting the vulnerable among us. I worry that the same rationale exists in Gaza and the West Bank. Are there other measures we can take? Can we accomplish the same goals in other ways? I’m not sure, we are very early in. The West Bank and Gaza, on the other hand, are almost 20 years in. There are other ways there. Time they were put into practice.
On the flip side, we are all acting, we are taking steps, we are aware. We know, perhaps as never before, that we are all connected in a very real and present way. What we do affects the other. What they do affects us. We not only can make a difference, we must make a difference. Anything less is seen not as thoughtless, but as deliberate harm to others. Much as the anti-vaccination community or the smoking community is being seen as deliberately harming the vulnerable around them while deliberately harming themselves and their families. We are beginning, perhaps, to shift.
One could hope this will carry forward into other arenas. That the retooling and shifting of personal and governmental priorities will carry over into measures combating poverty and the ‘me first’ system of income distribution underlying it. That our ability to stop, change direction and expend resources on an issue not contemplated by many a few months ago might help us as we struggle with climate change and what we must do to walk in respect and care with all our relations. Not just the human ones.
We may have been given the gift of time. Time to pause, to reflect, to breathe in disturbance and breathe out peace. Time to consider what truly matters and what steps we might take to offer support, care and nurture to one another and the living heartbeat of Creation. Let us not squander this time but rather spend it wisely. Let us, as Micah reminds us, while we are doing justice and loving kindness through our in-activities in public congress and our new activities in reaching out to those in need, find ways to listen closely to the still small voice of the Creator, calling us into relationship with the deepest heart of love. Let this time not be marked by our distance from one another but by our profound realization of our intimate connections with one another.