The other day, I went to the supermarket to do my weekly grocery shopping. I learned that I could easily buy a lottery ticket, which could be worth millions, and exotic vegetables with names I don’t know how to pronounce. However, purchasing a container of antibacterial cleaning wipes was another matter. The cupboard was bare in that department. I wasn’t trying to buy the wipes because of COVID-19. I always use them to clean surfaces in my house and I used my last one. Today, I tried to find them in several more stores and on the internet, with no success. I am going to have to muddle through with all-purpose cleaning spray, like we did back in the day.
I do not want to be flip or dismiss the concerns of reasonable people. First, a global pandemic is not funny. Second, pragmatically concerned people who stay on the rational side of panic are likely more realistic and certainly more helpful than I am with my somewhat laissez faire attitude about the whole coronavirus thing.
The weird thing is that I haven’t felt all that scared or anxious about the situation. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that one of my few talents in life is worrying. If they had an Olympics for worrying, I’d win a gold medal. Except they would probably cancel the Worrying Olympics in an attempt to slow the spread of contagion. I am a world class worrier. For some reason, though, the coronavirus outbreak has barely been a blip on my radar. I took very little notice until the World Health Organization started calling it a pandemic and Disney closed all its parks. At that point, I started thinking about it. I still don’t feel worried. This is a great comfort to my friends who understand my overactive nervous system. They figure if I, of all people, am not worried, things must not be so hopeless.
I am glad that people are having conversations about the best ways to handle potential danger. This gives us a chance to look at all options from a variety of perspectives, including how realistic it is for a society to follow a possible protocol. Having many reasonable, educated, analytical minds discuss a situation increases the possibility that all relevant factors and options will be considered. Having widespread mass communication increases the possibility of public awareness and education, even if it also increases the opportunity for misinformation and panic. It is important for individuals, families, and organizations start assessing risks and adopting practices to minimize opportunities for infection. I also think it is important for charitable, service, and religious organizations to mobilize to meet the health, financial, and spiritual needs that will certainly arise from the coronavirus. It is also important that people operate from a place of practical caution and generosity rather than fear and panic.
Even though I am not racked by worry and fear, I do support efforts to be smart and careful in an uncertain environment.
There is still a lot that I find ironic and illogical about the reaction to the pandemic. Trying to reconcile the actions people are taking makes my brain hurt sometimes. For instance, my community cancelled our chorale concert a month from now, but we hosted a pancake breakfast for 100 the day after the WHO announced it was classifying the coronavirus situation a “pandemic.” Disney and Universal announced they were closing to the public but continued to operate for two more weekend days. The movie theater in my town stayed open but decided to sell only half the tickets to each show. Max and I went to see a movie advertised at a theater about 10 miles from our town. When we got to the movie theater, we found they had decided to close completely until further notice. However, across the parking lot from the theater, there was a well-populated bar. A couple participants in my Alpha group at church (which usually has about 20 attendees) decided to stay away from the class because of fear of contagion. Two other participants were absent last week because they were on a cruise. A friend of mine’s husband just went from the hospital to an in-patient physical therapy rehabilitation facility. The hospital allowed visitors, but the rehab facility locked down to prevent spread of disease.
I had one of those decisions of my own to make recently. I am the leader of my Episcopal Church Women small group. We meet the third Monday of every month. I didn’t plan to cancel the meeting. As news became clearer that the risk is not just a personal risk, but also a risk to our public health and safety organizations, I decided to reconsider my position. I still did not feel any real personal risk (I mention this to reassure the friends that use me as their personal barometer for panic). I am just now considering another factor in my decision-making. I don’t want to contribute to overstressing our hospitals and health care personnel to the breaking point. Lots of people could seem perfectly well and still be carrying the virus. For most people, catching the virus will likely be inconvenient but not necessarily dangerous. However, if the hospitals cannot accommodate all the people who are in danger, the result may not be pretty.
My decision to cobble together a rough virtual meeting instead of having our normal face-to-face meeting involved considering many interests. I did not consider just the health and public safety interests, although that was part of the equation. I also considered the spiritual needs of the group, the fellowship advantages, the need to present a faithful and loving example of Christianity to the world, and the interest in making sure that a short-term decision does not become a permanent answer. My decision was based partly on the fact that our group has a strong relational foundation, that we can and will change our course if the problem continues or we see people fraying around the edges, and that we will still invest face time with people who have needs that we cannot meet over the phone or with electronic communication.
Another interesting thing about my decision is that it seems inconsistent with a decision I’ve made for myself about another group in my church. I don’t have the authority to make the decision for the other group, but, unless directed otherwise, I still plan on meeting with them. I am putting myself in the middle of the exact ironic, apparently illogical conundrum that gives me a brainache. In the other group, there are some different factors to consider that make me believe, under my set of priorities, that the benefits outweigh the risks.
I guess I’ve found the answer to my quandary. For every decision we make, especially in the time of COVID-19, there are many factors to weigh. Everyone will have his or her own matrix of risks, benefits, and priorities for each situation they encounter. Likely, all those matrices will be different. I’m going to stop trying to force everything to make sense. It’s not my job. My job is just to analyze my own matrix for my own situations and do the best I can.
How are you fostering a sense of community, companionship, and affection in a world of COVID-19? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a healthy day! Stay well, my friends… physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.