Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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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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