Like a scene from a sci-fi movie, I enter the grocery store as a number. Number 39. I am greeted by someone whose job is to keep up with my number and know when I enter and exit so that the next civilian can be granted access.
I am reminded by a pleasant, yet robotic voice echoing through the intercom, “Welcome valued shopper. Please maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet between you and the other shoppers. This is for your safety. Please comply. Have a nice day.”
I see masks and frantic people desperately trying to secure necessary items. I see an older lady unable to find toilet paper. It is survival of the fittest when it comes to items once taken for granted. It seems I am the only one to notice her. Where am I?
People look at one another in the same way shelter dogs look through their cages – longing for attention but unable to interact. There is a deep longing in the way we make eye contact and quickly look away. It seems unreal and yet it is real. But for how long? We don’t know.
Wasn’t it just a month ago that we complained about going to work so early? Now, many of us no longer have jobs. Those of us that do are working from home. Maybe the irritating associate or coworker really isn’t so bad. We should give him or her a call. We want to talk and to connect with someone. Anyone.
I personally have always hated shopping. Now, I make an extra lap around the grocery store – rushed only by the thought of eager shoppers waiting outside to take my number. Church services that once seemed inconvenient are something I miss deeply. Dinners and gatherings that I once fought to get out of now seem like somewhat of a treasure. I regret the time I didn’t take to visit home more often.
And yet, I am more deeply connected to my family. I listen more attentively, and I talk with more enthusiasm because those interactions are so precious to me now. There are lessons to be learned through this experience.
Things that seemed important are not as vital as I thought. And things that I failed to make time for have been things I have cherished in the last few weeks. I am thankful for my health and for the health of my family. I am grateful for my home. I am thankful for my faith. I am thankful that although my flesh is given to fear, my spirit, having been made in the image of God, is not afraid of anything that can merely destroy the body and not the soul (Genesis 1:27 & Matthew 10:28). My spirit is eternal.
Yes, there are lessons to be learned from this experience. Lesson one, introverts are only weird when there’s not a crisis. We are like superheroes. When a crisis breaks lose, our capes (and masks) come out! I’ve learned that I should never ever cut my own hair or that of my dog’s based on knowledge acquired through YouTube videos.
I cannot shape my own eyebrows despite what Pinterest would have me believe, and I will tip my pedicurist more generously in the future. I have learned that my dog is capable of deep theological conversations but incapable of picking up his own messes.
I have learned that you can run out of funny animal videos and you probably will not use extra time as productively as you have always imagined. You cannot learn Spanish in a day and, if you decide to make tomato cages for the first time, also be prepared to get a tetanus shot. When making rolls, do not become impatient. Wood paint does not paint metal well, and it’s not a good idea to name opossums that show up in your back yard.
I have learned that going out in public seems like living out a futuristic sci-fi novel, going home seems like stepping back in time, and there is really no place I’d rather be than in the moment – regardless of what that moment feels like. It is good to be alive. We don’t know what the future will bring, we can’t go “back” to normal because “normal” is impossible now.
Things are different. We have today. We have right now and what we have right now can be scary and beautiful, chaotic and wonderful. We will see what we are looking for, so let’s look for each other and see the good even when it is buried deep inside the burden of uncertainty.
We can look for obstacles or we can look for and find opportunities to make the beauty easier for others to see. This isn’t a novel or a movie. This is life and there are lessons – hard lessons. Lessons that teach us a lot about ourselves. So, let’s live humbly, seek wisdom, and apply truths to our actions. Be safe. Be blessed. Be grateful.