Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” ~ William Penn

I’m certain I’m not the only one in this world who looks forward to life on the other side of this pandemic. How I long to gather in the church for our Sunday services, and to grieve those who have lost their lives, sometimes all alone in a hospital. How I crave warm “real” hugs from dear friends. How I miss having dinners and playing games with friends. And the idea of planning a vacation sounds like a beautiful dream right about now. Being able to shed my face mask — oh what a relief that will be. I will no longer need to deal with the the steaming up of my glasses, and I won’t have to smell my own bad breath, either. And when I’m on my way to the store and realize I don’t have a mask with me, I won’t need to turn around and go back home to get one.

I know it is discouraging, but we’re not there yet. We still need to look out for one another in the ways we can for another while. This involves wearing masks and staying far enough away from others to give them space to breathe air free of those prolific and voracious little coronaviruses. I do not want them to attach to my mucus membranes, nor do I want to be a source of contagion to others. When I try to fathom the pain of millions of people worldwide who have died alone while longing to be with their loved ones, the excruciating pain of the family members who could not be there when their loved ones left this world, the millions who suffered terribly with the virus and still managed to survive, those who suffer ongoing debilitating symptoms who are termed “long haulers” or “long termers,” and the thousands of children who have suffered or are suffering from Covid-related MIS-C, I get overwhelmed by the tragedy of it all. Then I realize that having a piece of cloth strapped over my mouth and nose with elastic bands is a small price to pay to join in the effort to prevent more such tragedies.

I have been watching the numbers on Worldometer since the beginning of the pandemic, and I find it striking that of all the countries in the world, we have fared the worst in terms of numbers of cases and deaths. For a while now, we have been tracking at the rate of being responsible for 25 percent of the world’s cases, and 20 percent of the coronavirus deaths in the world. I find this astounding.

I have wondered why a few times, but when I think about what an individualistic culture we are in this country, it is no wonder. We value personal freedom above all else, so we don’t do very well with cooperating with one another. I certainly have enjoyed a lot more personal freedom in my adult life than I would have had I stayed in my Amish community, and I am grateful for this freedom. But I also gave up the Amish sense of community when I left. When I used to do book talks, I used to say that the Amish still have some things to teach the rest of society. One of these things is how to have a sense of community. But during this pandemic, it seems they have swallowed the anti-mask rhetoric hook, line, and sinker. A friend recently sent me a hand-written sign that hangs inside the window of an Amish food establishment. It reads: “We trust in God our employees don’t wear mask please do not enter if this makes you uncomfortable. Yet we welcome you.”

My response to this is, “By all means, trust in God. But can you wear masks at the same time? I learned while living among you what it is like to give up my individual desires for the sake of community. Now is the time to live up to this belief. This is not only about the Amish, it is also about the everyone around you. How can you claim to be a “light to the world” while refusing to take any responsibility of preventing needless suffering in others?”

The Amish and their response to the pandemic have been reported in the news quite a bit lately. Here is a link to an article about an Ohio GOP lawmaker lauding the Amish practices including what she calls “culling the herd.”

Erik Wesner, author of the blog Amish America, is doing a project on the Amish and the pandemic. He tends to take the viewpoint of the Amish themselves. Below is a quote from one article, and here is the link for more information.

Erik Wesner says the Amish stick to their inner circle, limiting their exposure — even prior to the pandemic. And despite waves of COVID infections in some Amish communities, Wesner says the Amish are not making any radical changes.

“For the Amish, the church and the community are of utmost importance. And they also see things as happening according to God’s will, if the Amish believe that many of them have already been exposed, or have been infected with COVID. They may not see a need to even take the vaccine,” Wesner said.

There are varying degrees of truth to the statement that the Amish stick to their inner circle. The stricter the group, the more apt they are to stay within their communities. But horse and buggies do not meet all their transportation needs, and therefore they hire van drivers to “taxi” them. I’ve heard of several instances of van drivers contracting the virus from their Amish passengers, resulting in death in at least two of these instances. It can also be debated that if church and community are that important to the Amish, then they should take precautions and protect against community spread.

The Amish are not the only ones who refuse to wear masks. I have noticed that the more conservative Christians are, the less likely they are to wear masks. I wish I could understand this thinking. Jesus teaches us to be kind and help ‘the least among us.’ Doesn’t this mean that we have a moral responsibility to care for one another? How are we meeting that obligation if we refuse to wear masks and thereby take the risk of causing others harm?

I would dare say we are all looking forward to having the pandemic behind us. We will get there more quickly if we can only see ourselves as being in this together and do our part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Perhaps we can even learn from this pandemic that people need people in ways we didn’t realize before. We are all part of the human family and our actions affect others. Wearing masks is inconvenient, yes. None of us would choose it for pleasure. It is, however, an act of kindness to our fellow humans. I will continue to wear one for as long as it is needed. We can celebrate in all sorts of ways when we finally get to the other side of this pandemic. I, for one, am looking forward to going back to church and having lots of dinners with friends and you better believe there will be hugs!


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7 thoughts on “Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic”

  1. pamela lakits

    Saloma, Paul and I took a trip to an Ohio community that we love (refraining from saying where out of respect for that community). Its an area we love and visit several times a year. We just wanted to get away and be in the country and fresh air!!! Mask wearing among the Amish there was almost non-existent. Though to be honest it was almost refreshing to glimpse what the world use to be like, but it was a bit unnerving at the same time. We of course wore ours and went through a lot of hand sanitizer! We were gone only three days, but we kept a low profile back home for a while just in case we had brought something back with us. Paul is getting his first shot today. I’m 60 so not in the age group yet (though I probably could get it because of my heart condition). Its a long wait here to get it and those older then I are at more of a risk of dying from it then I am so I’m just going to wait my turn. I think we have all learned from this experience and hopefully the biggest is how important our families and our friends and our church communities are to us.That we shouldn’t take those relationships for granted. I lost an elderly cousin to Covid. I miss my Sunday night talks over the phone with her. My son got Covid a year ago this month. He still deals with lung issues, probably always will. As for the Amish, I understand where they are coming from and yet,Saloma, I don’t.

  2. Pamela, it’s great to see you here! I do understand the desire to “move on” and leave this pandemic behind us. I believe we can only do that by hanging in there with masks for a little while longer until more people become vaccinated.

    David got his second shot yesterday. Like you, I am “underage” for the shot, so I will wait my turn.

    Our son and his girlfriend also got Covid, just in the last month. They got pretty sick. My son is still having respiratory issues.

    I hope you stay safe and healthy. And Happy Spring!

  3. Saloma – You have such good sense, but sense seems to be sorely lacking among those who are pontificating about the assault on “personal freedom” posed by mask regulations.

    You missed the most ridiculous related example of misusing religion — one of our state legislators here in Ohio said that mask-wearing was sacrilegious because it would obscure his face, which he reminded us was created in “the image of God.” In the first place, I hope that’s not literally true because the guy isn’t that gorgeous. And in the second place, is it only his FACE that is made in God’s image? If not, why isn’t he attending the legislature in the buff? Or does clothing have some sort of exemption in his theology?

    Humans are the most puzzling species of all, aren’t we? Stay well and be careful — we’ll get through this with patience, caution, and humor.

  4. My husband is a flight paramedic and has witnessed first-hand some of the horrors of covid. Less than a month ago he had to do cpr on an 18 year-old patient with covid. Sadly, his patient didn’t make it. My husband felt so bad for the father who was there at our rural hospital alone when his son died, as the mother had already been transported to a hospital in Tucson with covid and was on dialysis as a result. Tragic! My nurse daughter got covid in July of 2020. Even though she didn’t get terribly ill, she still only has about 50% of her smell and taste back. At this point, she will more than likely never get back more than that. As a member of a fairly conservative christian church, and living in a very rural area, I have seen many deny the effectiveness of masks as well as believing that it violates their rights. I know I need to act Christlike towards them also. But sometimes I have little patience for them! I agree with you 100% that wearing a mask and taking other recommended precautions is a small price to pay. I too hope that you will be back to enjoying the close friendships you have (hugs included) very soon!

  5. Saloma, Mary and I were thinking about you and David just this morning. So, I went on a “where are they?” quest and found your website and blog. We’d love to get in touch again and discuss the events of the pandemic from our experiences. (Nothing bad!)

  6. Hi Saloma, I came upon your blog last night after watching the episode you appeared in on the American Experience. I am the wife of a Wisconsin dairy farmer so I sense we may share a common kindred spirit. I had to write to you because I have found myself profoundly drawn to the title of your most recent post– “Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic”. Since reading your blog I have spent a considerable amount of time ruminating on its theme. I can’t help but wonder what will we find on the other side? I am very fearful about happens to the future of communities that place priority on the “me” as opposed to “we”?

    Amish communities have endured because of their incredible unity. Individuals sublimate their personal identities for the good of their communities. Our country’s history has been no different. Our country’s strength is rooted in its individual citizen’s ability to band together as “One Nation Under God”. But who will we be on the other side of this pandemic? Our communities have devolved into separate tribes, clans, and factions. There seems to be no capacity to compromise or even acceptance of differing viewpoints. Even where mask wearing is tolerated it is often accompanied with condescension and derision and even contempt, with face masks more likely to be worn as chin-masks than over a mouth and nose.

    The death caused by this disease is devastating and heartbreaking. Yet what is less apparent and alarmingly sinister is the fact that this disease has made it impossible for the survivors to avoid becoming members of opposing factions. There are those who wear masks and those who refuse; two differing factions with no way to avoid becoming part of one or the other. I am now fully vaccinated. I chose to be part of the vaccinated faction. But even had I not made that choice I would have been part of another separate faction – the unvaccinated. One more unavoidable faction and source of community division created by this nightmare.

    I feel like have lost so much, not only from the deaths of friends and neighbors, but also my community. I feel like such an outsider in my white rural community. Even my faith community has been lost to me; they moved on last June of 2020 when our bishop ordered all healthy low risk members to return to Sunday services or risk what he termed “grave sin”; a euphemism in my faith for “external damnation”. An order reflecting more concern for maintaining the structural integrity of the church than health and welfare of the individuals comprising it.

    I want there to be rainbows and sunshine on the other side of this pandemic, but I am frightened that we will see a barren landscape of darkness and destruction. I pray that our country will once again find its strength in its “common unity” and can rebuild its communities in the aftermath of this incredibly destructive period of history.

  7. There are many (without medical reasons) who refuse to wear a mask. Some have even ridiculed others and myself for taking the vaccine. I agree that we should all do all that we can to help stop the spread of COVID. Regardless of one’s religious or non-religious views. We will get through this someday. Praying that your son and his girlfriend are doing better.

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