Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Friday morning that we would continue our stay-at-home order until May 15. This makes sense to me. While our numbers in Michigan are leveling out and we haven’t had quite as many new cases every day, that seems to me to be the result of us all staying away from each other — slowing the spread, flattening the curve. Since the virus still exists, and many are still carrying it, it would seem foolish to all of a sudden drop restrictions and start interacting with one another face-to-face.
And no one is suggesting that we do that. Not for a while.
In fact, it seems that for a while we’ll be experimenting with tightening and loosening restrictions and seeing what happens. Some states are being criticized for ‘opening up’ too soon, putting financial stability ahead of public health. Other states are being criticized for keeping the restrictions too strict for too long.
I’m not in any position to have an opinion about the best way to proceed, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m told — sheltering in place, going out for necessity only and with an abundance of caution, washing my hands, and covering my face.
I can do these things with little difficulty because my husband and I can work from home, we have everything we need, and we have not been infected. We eat well, have access to all kinds of television shows, read good books, and sleep comfortably each night. Our loved ones are all safe and well, and we are able to communicate with them regularly.
Not everyone is so fortunate.
So, so many have lost their jobs and are suffering from the financial impact. Over 20% of our country is unemployed at the moment (26 million as of April 24, 2020). I can’t imagine the stress they must be feeling. While stimulus checks have been promised and unemployment payments have been subsidized, no one can really be sure when those dollars will arrive or if they will be enough. While more than half of qualifying Americans have received their stimulus checks, most of those who have filed for unemployment will be waiting a while to get financial assistance.
Many do not have what they need. Many families and individuals do not have enough food. Grocery stores are short on certain items due to shifting demands and the reorganizing of supply chains. Medical facilities continue to struggle to obtain necessary supplies and equipment.
Many, many are sick. As of this writing, over 2.8 million cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed around the world; over 200,000 have died. In the US, over 965,000 cases have been confirmed; over 54,000 have died. In Michigan alone, there are over 37,000 confirmed cases and over 3,300 deaths. And this is far from over.
Many have no time to rest. Parents of school-aged children are juggling their own work responsibilities while managing the educational, physical, social, and emotional needs of their children. Governmental leaders are doing their best to make decisions that impact all of us while facing criticism, protests, growing death tolls, and and a devastated economy. Essential workers have been burning the candle at both ends to provide medical care, necessary supplies, and food to the rest of us. They’ve been going steady for weeks on end, and they’ve got to be exhausted.
Some are unable to communicate with those that they love. We all have heard stories of people who have loved ones in the hospital who are sick or dying alone. Because of the danger of contagion, no one can visit. Often, it’s challenging to make contact of any kind — even a phone call. Some have been separated from loved ones who live in nursing homes — a generation that is unfamiliar with Smart phones, FaceTime and Zoom rooms.
So why am I writing all this? Am I just stating the obvious?
But I think right now the obvious needs to be stated.
Because the obvious is heavy, and it’s a burden we can’t put down — now or anytime soon.
We’re lugging this load down a long dusty road, whipped by the wind, parched and tired, and we can’t see our destination — the place where we can set it all down.
We don’t know when it will be safe to hug our aging parents, when we’ll be able to play with our grandchildren, when we can sit across the table from our friends, or when we can simply get a haircut.
We don’t know when our finances will recover, when we’ll go back to work, when we’ll reschedule our vacations, or when we’ll worship together in church, gathering at the altar for the bread and the wine, joining our voices in song, hearing one another in prayer.
And what is not obvious is that walking around every day with this very heavy burden is exhausting. We’re tired, and tender, and emotional.
We feel weepy, then angry, then giddy, then hopeless, then resolute, then determined, then disappointed, then devastated, then weepy….
So, we think to ourselves, “let’s do something fun — go see some friends, have a party, go to the beach, have dinner out,” but then we realize the obvious:
we are under quarantine,
Covid 19 is a killer,
the only weapon we have to defend ourselves at the moment is social distancing,
supplies are tight,
people are suffering,
there’s not much we can do but to keep doing our part.
The obvious is heavy, so if you’re tired, it makes sense. Have a seat. Take a break. Call a friend. Laugh. Cry. Yell.
If you can, extend a hand. Connect with someone else.
Consider sharing — some time, some money, some food, some resources, some hope.
It’s a long dusty road, and the burden is heavy.
Let’s help one another along.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2