We’re All in this Together

How do we gain perspective on the sudden changes that have been thrust upon us in the past month by the pandemic? This is the question that I’ve been asking myself, and it’s been preventing me from writing in my journal or on this blog. But then I realized one day, that being “in it” is still a perspective, though not the one I would prefer of having made it through and now looking back on these difficult weeks of isolation. I realize that we are among the fortunate ones because we can stay home. Health professionals who are working in hospitals caring for those afflicted with this contagious virus do not have much choice. And those who have gotten ill have even less of a choice.

David and I have developed a rhythm to our days and weeks. I am working for the church from home, which gives structure to my weekdays. When spring weather arrived, David began working on turning our backyard into an edible landscape using permaculture methods. I usually make dinner, and then after dark we have been playing games. Right now our two favorite games are “Ticket to Ride” and “Splendor” but we are about to roll out Carcasonne and Settlers of Catan again. The other night we assembled a jigsaw puzzle for variety. The evenings when we engage in something inconsequential, it has been allowing me a break from the weighty matters of what is happening in our community, country, and world. Because there isn’t a lot I can do for the common good except for staying home, this is a necessary (and hopefully healthy) break.

As with so many others, David and I get by with having a good laugh once in a while. One day, David was looking out over a hillside dotted with cattle. He made the remark, “Oh look, the cows are maintaining their social distance.” That gave me a good laugh when I imagined they are not just wanting their own green grass to graze on, they are purposely keeping their distance from one another. I include a photo:

Photo by Saloma Furlong

On a more serious note, the nature of my job has changed. Two weeks ago on Friday, the decision was made at the church that the pastors and staff should work from home. So now instead of spending the week in the building managing the office, I find myself putting together email groups and communicating with parishioners throughout the week. Like most other churches, our service is being broadcast into our homes instead of us going to the church for worship services. There have been times when I am watching the service from my computer that tears just stream down my cheeks. I grieve the loss of being in the presence of others. I miss this just about more than anything else.

I have to say the last three Sundays, the worship services have been profound, despite the fact that (or perhaps because) I couldn’t be in the physical space of the sanctuary worshiping with others in the place we are accustomed to. You can listen to one, two, or all three on the website of Park View Mennonite Church by following the link.

A number of women in the church are actively sewing masks for themselves, others, and for the professionals who are short on masks to protect themselves and their patients. Someone in the community asked for 1000 masks for the first responders in Harrisonburg. That order will be filled this week. Now there are those at the hospital who want cloth masks as well. Part of our job at the church is matching up the supply with the demand.

Last night I read several articles that quite upset me. It has to do with those in my original culture who refuse to isolate for the common good. I know the Amish are not the only ones who are resisting the call to stay at home, but it’s the scale of the gatherings among the Amish that could be like squirting gasoline on a fire someone else is trying to extinguish.

The first article I read happened in Michigan, in which several hundred Amish people gathered for a wedding. The second had to do with a horse auction in which more than six hundred Amish and Mennonites gathered.

There has been discussion on this blog before about the willful disregard for secular laws among the Amish. The prevailing attitude in their communities is that those rules do not apply to them. And because they believe that everything is in God’s hands, it absolves them of taking responsibility for their health and well-being, or for anyone else’s. For those Amish who disregard science out of hand, neither statistics nor the consequences of the contagious nature of the coronavirus are going to leave an impression on them. Even though most of them don’t intentionally have a disregard for the health and well-being of others, that is how it comes across. Some Amish man’s horse auction is more important to him than canceling the auction and potentially saving hundreds of thousands of people from contracting Covid-19. And yes, weddings are important, but hundreds do not need to be present. Everyone needs to make sacrifices during this pandemic, and some are not doing their part — the Amish communities involved in these two situations are among them.

I get it that isolating ourselves from others is not easy. The loss of some of my personal freedoms has triggered memories from my childhood and teen years when I often felt trapped in a family in which I had to try to protect myself from violence from my father, my mother, and my older brother. A slip of the tongue or letting my anger for my situation show was treacherous. I remind myself that I am not in that situation now. Even though I have to be isolated from all others, David and I still have one another, which I am ever so grateful for. There are those who are in abusive relationships and now they find themselves truly trapped. I pray for all those who find themselves in such a situation.

I have a friend named Linda Crockett who wrote a poignant blog post about how the Covid-19 situation can trigger trauma for abuse survivors. You can read it by following the link.

I have a question for my dear readers. How have you been coping with the changes forced on you with the arrival of the pandemic?

David and I went out on Wednesday to pick up prescriptions and groceries. We were amazed at how many people were out and about. We looked at one another and said, “Did Governor Northam give a “stay-at-home order or not?” It made us realize that to be safe, we need to stay at home as much as possible — both for our own good, and for the common good.

All that said, this is not easy. Even introverted people find this difficult. And yet we do what must be done with the hope that we will get through this. Perhaps we cannot go back to the way things were before. Maybe we will have divided our memories into the before and the after of the pandemic, but let us hope that we will be able to regain the freedom of eating meals together, worshiping together, grieving our losses, and celebrating our lives. I look forward to that day, whether it is next month, in six months, or in a year or more.

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10 thoughts on “We’re All in this Together”

  1. Thank you for your update, Saloma. I’m glad that you and David are well and staying as safe as possible. The articles about Amish people continuing to gather in large groups are very concerning.

    I live in a county in northern Maine where the average population density is only four people per square mile, so social distancing is relatively easy. I live alone, but am staying in touch with my church and other friends online. Time out in nature has always been a major stress reliever for me. Where I’m living now, I’ve been able to walk right from my door onto the still-frozen surface of Moosehead Lake (Maine’s largest lake), and I’ve made a project of exploring the many small islands. The closest I’ve come to another person while out walking on the ice was probably a couple of hundred feet, but most of the time the nearest person was much farther away than that. Now that the ice is beginning to thaw, I’ll need to find other places to walk. The protocol recommended for outdoor activities up here is, if you get to your first-choice spot and see that several cars are already parked there, move on until you find a place where appropriate social distancing is feasible. With the population density so low, there’s room enough for everyone who feels the need to get out into the woods to do so safely. A true blessing!

    1. Wendy, you are right… those in rural or country settings find themselves in much better shape for social distancing, than say someone in NYC. I remember hearing how much you adore your setting in Maine, and I’m sure you’re grateful for it now more than ever. Good for you.

      Yes, these are distressing stories about people who refuse to sacrifice for the good of themselves and everyone else.

      David and I used to spend part of our summers on Lake Rangeley. That is way too far north for me to want to spend my winters there. I love that we can plant our garden in late March here in Virginia. On the other hand, the summers in Maine are so cool compared to the heat and humidity here. My favorite months in Maine are August and September. That is after the blackfly season is over, and after the noseeums, and the biting flies. In late summer there are only the horseflies left and they are not as numerous.

      The birds in Maine used to have us fascinated. One day we saw 23 loons on the lake. We used to see mergansers, mallards, and other water fowl. And of course the kingfishers came every summer. The songbirds used to include the white-throated sparrow, American redstart, indigo bunting, and several kinds of warblers. Birding used to be my favorite part of visiting Lake Rangeley.

      May you continue to love the outdoors of Maine. You are living the life David would love to live, but he is married to me and doesn’t have that option.

  2. I have been reminded a number of times that social distancing is a privilege that not many have. People at the border seeking asylum, people in prison, homeless people don’t have it. Having clean water to wash my hands is a privilege that people in Detroit whose water got turned off when they couldn’t pay their very high water bills don’t have. The people in Flint, Michigan STILL don’t have clean water. This pandemic is disproportionately affecting the poorer people in this country and across the world.

    One way I deal with my difficulties in this time is to focus on the gratitude for a safe home, enough food, clean water and not having to go to a job that may or may not have my safety in mind in order to pay my rent. I have seen multiple petitions for workers in essential jobs on strike because their bosses aren’t providing basic protections (hand washing, protective gear, paid sick leave) for them. I have a supportive community and the computer that enables me to do telehealth appointments and zoom gatherings.

    I wish my governor would issue a stay-at-home order. He just made it a recommendation. But, as Saloma points out, the order can be ignored by many who could do it. Makes me angry. People working in hospitals are pleading “We’re working here for you. Please stay at home for us.” This makes it clear to me that we have a very individualistic society. We are mostly not used to thinking in terms of the common good, the community needs, our responsibility to the people around us. I live in an apartment building and most of the people in it barely speak to each other most of the time. I offered to set up a network (email and phone) so we could help each other when needed. Out of 25 units, only three responded.

    One way I’m coping is by collecting funny stuff and passing it around. Here’s one: After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn’t the reason.”

    1. Johanna, you are right about it being a privilege to stay at home. I have to keep reminding myself of that when I feel shut in. And you’re right about those who have no choice and are more at risk of catching this disease.

      You are also right about the importance of gratitude. When I get to go out and be social again, I will not be taking it for granted, that is for sure. In the meantime, I do have plenty to be grateful for, including the fact that we no longer own the house in Sunderland. David’s job was what kept the mortgage paid there, and he would most certainly have lost his job by now. The house we live in now is much more modest and affordable.

      I am not surprised about the non-response in your apartment building. It seemed to me that nearly everyone in Massachusetts was independent and didn’t need any new friends. I had a sense that all of our society is like that. But moving to this area made me realize this isn’t the case. Here there is much more of a sense of community. Our group of friends keeps expanding. We are so grateful for that.

      I like the funny quote you passed along. Humor is important to get us by. Have you seen this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2pMkW7EwSc. I find it funniest to listen, but not watch this comedian. He sounds so much like Trump, it’s uncanny.

      Take good care, Johanna.

      1. Hi Saloma! You mentioned the house in Sunderland. I remember that it was a beautiful place! Occasionally I take a drive with my dog and if we pass through Sunderland, I think of you. The phrase “nearly everyone in Massachusetts was independent and didn’t need any new friends” also resonates with me. I’ve lived here 11 years now, and have a few good friends, for which I’m grateful even though I haven’t seen some of them for a few months. My neighbors will help me if I need it, which is good; but those with family have each other and don’t always think to include us single people. I’m happy to hear that you and David are in a good place, easier on the budget and with a community of people who care. Much love, Lori

  3. It’s good to hear you are staying well, Saloma. I’m actually enjoying staying at home. I talk to friends on the phone and love getting outside for a walk in the woods. I am hugely grateful for all that I have, food on the table, a roof over my head, and loving and caring family and friends.

    I have no patience for those who are out in the world without caring for others. But I hope and pray that more people will wake up after this is over and find the important things: family, friends, our planet, and taking good care of ourselves.

    1. Joan, I’m glad you’re staying well and happy. Nice that you enjoy staying at home and roaming the woods. This is one of those times when I wish I wasn’t such an extreme extravert.

      I agree that this situation can be used as an opportunity to discovering what is important in this life. I would put nature in there also. And may we never again take for granted the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation without the aid of an electronic device.

      Take good care, Joan.

    1. Melanie, thank you for sending this link. I think it’s wonderful that the Amish folks in Holmes County are mobilizing like this to help with the relief effort. However, I wish the photo was showing the workers all wearing masks. It seems to me they should actually be required to wear them. I think it should be stressed that the masks are not for protecting the wearer as much as they are protecting those around them. Doing for others is so much more important than for themselves in that culture.

      There is mention of the large gatherings, and I’m glad to get the perspective of David Kline. I have a great deal of respect for him. I’ve been wondering how he is leading his district. It sounds like they are not meeting for church. I hope he can influence other bishops to follow his lead, if so.

      Thank you again for sending this link, Melanie.

  4. Paul and I only go out to the grocery store or the drug store to pick up prescriptions when we have to and we wear masks that a good friend of mine made for us. Being at the grocery store and finding shelves empty is so surreal to me even after all these weeks. I was almost out of flour and wanted to make my hubby a new batch of chocolate cookies and there wasn’t one to be found. I just stood there staring at the empty shelf as if my mind couldn’t comprehend it. Those are the times I am reminded we are living in a different world right now. I am an introvert and so I am liking the down time of no one needing me or wanting something from me and believe me when you have six grown kids and lots of grand kids and siblings and cousins all around you, well, lets just say there isn’t a lot of me time!!! I’m spring cleaning, taking walks with Paul,reading, writing and I even started a puzzle. However, even I am starting to tire of this “stay at home” order. I miss hugging my grand kids and my kids. I miss having family dinners,being with my church family. If nothing else comes from this experience I hope that I keep in my heart and mind what truly matters in this life, friends and family and staying connected in other ways beside a text here and there, but having real conversations, taking those walks, slowing down to enjoy building a puzzle,reading a book,playing a board game, being in God’s word more, being with those we love. One of my son’s had the virus. It was a scary two weeks of not knowing if he was going to have to go to the hospital or not. He has asthma, which only made the breathing part of this virus more difficult for him. His loving wife is a nurse and got him through the worst of it. The first thing I’m going to do when this is all over is go give him the longest hug ever. This whole thing has been a good reminder of what is most important in this life and it sure isn’t stuff.

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