I just got off the phone with one of our 94-year-old members who is an inpatient at PVH with a breakthrough case of COVID. I cannot imagine how hard it is for him to face the scourge of this virus at his age, and as we spoke, we agreed that neither of us has ever seen anything like it. How does this happen to someone who is vaccinated and has taken care to avoid the virus?
At lunchtime, I went to the grocery store, and I was shocked to see other customers not wearing masks, despite a public health order more than a week ago mandating mask use. As someone whose immune system is compromised by cancer treatment, I find this personally concerning and socially irresponsible. It is okay with me if an individual wants to play Russian roulette with their own health, but please don’t assume that it is alright to do so with mine or with anyone else’s. If we can cooperate by not smoking in the presence of others because of the danger of secondhand smoke (also a government mandate), why can’t some folks agree to slip on a simple mask without getting belligerent?
It isn’t easy living through these days of the pandemic. I’m sure that we all feel like a good rant every now and again. I think of Albert Finney in the 1976 film, Network, encouraging people to stick their heads out the window and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And there are moments when perhaps you feel as if you’ve come to the end of your rope and want to shout at someone…or at least holler out the window. (Theological note: It’s probably a lot safer to yell at God than someone whose feelings are apt to be hurt. God can take it!) Lighting a tiki torch and becoming a white supremacist is not a faithful response to pandemic. Yelling at public health officials or school board members is not a faithful response. Why must humans find a scapegoat and play the blame game?
Most of us are frustrated, exhausted, and feeling traumatized to some degree. Instead of blaming and ranting excessively or becoming passive aggressive, we need to talk to people who understand us, even if they are amid the same crisis. We can explore with a friend, a spouse, or a trusted companion such questions as: What is lifegiving for me right now? What is depleting or deadening? What have I done to live into the idea that there is no us and them…there is only us? What help do I need from my friends? (Thanks to Gareth Higgins for this model!) Social contact — even with social distance — helps diminish our isolation, our sense of being alone, and our frustration.
During the Middle Ages and in Early Modern Europe, Christians dealt with the plague on numerous occasions (without the benefit of masks, vaccines, or knowledge that a virus exists). And lest we think them primitive or unenlightened, we can look to some of them for examples of faithful response. While others fled Wittenberg when the bubonic plague arrived in 1527, Martin Luther stayed behind to support the sick and dying. That is a more constructive response than scapegoating or discharging misdirected anger at someone. Who can you help? Who needs you to hold the Christlight for them? As St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness joy.” What can you do to alleviate someone’s stress, suffering, or isolation today? The path to healing for ourselves lies in how we can use our lives in the service of each other.
Blessings to you helpers!
P.S. I listened in on the Larimer County Health Board last week, and it was terrible listening to how our public health director, his staff, and our public health board were verbally abused during the public comment. It's been a long pandemic, especially for these folks. I ask that you take two minutes to send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that you support their efforts to keep us safe. Thank you!
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal here.