I call him my little buddy. He is about 9 years old with chestnut brown hair and a lopsided smile. His father gives me the smile of a parent who loves their child so much it hurts. My little buddy greets me as soon as he hears the soft pads of Nala pawing the wet grass in the early morning. “Bus!” he proclaims from the confines of his wheelchair. “Yes!” I reply. “It is almost time for your bus! You got ready on time…yay you! Have a good day in school.”
I imagine what it takes for that father to get his son ready every day. For most people, once a child is in kindergarten, they become increasingly self-sufficient. By age 9 they are standing with their friends waiting for the bus, looking like they just tumbled out of bed. Every day, my little buddy reminds me of parents like his, who love without limits, giving all they have to help their children have, all they are able to experience.
This week, the United States began to own its part in the global pandemic known as the corona virus or Covid-19. No matter how many supplies we had, we are out shopping for more. People are posting photos of empty bread aisles online. Others post scoldings calling people not to hoard. Still others explain that seniors, who only get paid once a month, and get out less, are not hoarding, they are preparing in the only way they can.
As we scroll through social media posts we read apologies and assurances from entire school districts, teams, church denominations announcing they are closing for the next several weeks to “flatten the curve”, an expression that means lengthening the time over which the virus impacts people, or, avoiding having everyone get the virus simultaneously. The idea is that by flattening the curve, our hospitals and medical staff, who do not have enough supplies, including respirators, will be less likely to become overloaded and have to choose who gets care … and who doesn’t.
It is easy to see the parallel to many dystopian novels. People in public are wearing face masks and worried eyes. When someone sneezes or coughs, the automatic response has shifted from “God bless you”, to moving away from the one who we use to automatically bless.
And yet, as the initial shock of what we are getting ready for subsides, I also see this: people asking how they can help the children who counted on school lunches as a primary meal of the day, who will be home now for weeks with far less access to food.
I see strangers offering one another weak smiles as they load their grocery carts. I notice the tone of people in lines is gentler, the listening, more intentional.
I read online of people who are farther along in their understanding of the virus, working to educate others about the fact that you may not show symptoms for weeks, but you can still be a carrier. Therefore we must shut down for the sake of the most vulnerable in our midst.
And I see God’s own Spirit in this: strangers, people who normally would not speak or engage at all are encouraging one another, working together, communicating as if we are in this together, and that the outcome will be equal.
In truth, the outcome will not be equal. Some of us will get the virus, become ill, and recover. Others will get the virus, become ill, and stay ill for months. Others will die.
But this thing…this being ready to live through it. This being ready to help in whatever way we can. This being ready to educate so that others get on board. This understanding that is growing as fast as the virus itself, that for most to live we all must make sacrifices is nothing short of God’s action in our world. Like the prodigal son, it is a trait of humanity that we desperately needed to come home, where we are waiting with open arms.
It is the equivalent of a majority of people rising up in a time of hatred and unprecedented division, to say: this child in the wheelchair matters. Elderly people on oxygen matter. People who are financially insecure matter.
It is like we are waking up realizing that we are all that dad, who will go to great lengths to make sure everyone is ready for the bus, because we love one another so much it hurts.
For we the people, to rediscover that depth of love for one another, and choose to shut down our country, so that the least of these might have a better chance at life, is a holy thing to witness. I pray for all of us through this time of trial. And I thank God, that more people every minute are understanding what is at stake and deciding they too are all in.