I stopped in Walmart yesterday to pick up a few groceries. By the time I got to the self-check line it was plain to see that the woman in front of me had had words with the young man who was already at the kiosk over his not wearing a face mask. “I don’t need to,” he said with a note of defensive agitation, “the Constitution gives me permission.” Before I could make it to an open register, a cashier motioned to me that she was free to ring me up. As I started up my truck in the parking lot, I noticed three police cars lined up outside Market 32 with the blue lights flashing. I decided to drive out the back way to avoid any hold up. I surmised from a distance that there had been some kind of altercation. On my way home I decided that it was about time for another email of encouragement to the congregation.
Another new addition to our vocabulary since the pandemic began- “quarantine fatigue”. We are starting to see signs of it. It has been two months since the shutdown began. Sharp words in Walmart to security guards body slamming a customer who refuses to wear a mask in Alabama; I don’t know about you, but I have begun to detect a note of surliness in the air.
Quarantine fatigue affects us in the church too. For our older folks, who can already feel isolated, the sheltering in place can seem doubly lonely. And for our younger parents, the 24/7 demands of kids who can’t understand the need for vigilance can get overwhelming, especially if we have the added responsibility of working from home. On top of that, the weather has not helped; snow the day before Mother’s Day? Where’s spring? I love my wood stove, but I’m ready to put it to bed for the summer.
We have seen on the news how people are clamoring for their states to lift the lock-down, and many states are beginning to just that. Restaurants, barber shops, even bowling alleys. I can understand perhaps Montana and Wyoming and Alaska, but I’m not sure we’re ready to open up in Massachusetts. As much as we might want to dispense with our facemask and sit down with friends at Starbucks, the virus is still quite active in our neck of the woods. I just pray that Atlanta and Houston don’t end up like New York City was a month ago.
But the question lingers, “How much longer? When will a vaccine be available? Will things ever get back to normal?” Neither our politicians nor our doctors have the answer. Even we as Christians, we do not have the answer to those questions. But we know the one who does have the answer, and for us as Christians, this is where we must find our hope and strength. And it is that hope that should define how we conduct ourselves in the midst of the circumstances around us.
I’m no more enamored of government officials micro-managing every detail of my life than the next person, but I think there is more at stake than my personal independence in this case. The well-being of my family and friends, as well as my community are at stake, and I have to give serious consideration to that too. Not to mention the fact that, if I wear the name of Christ then his reputation is at stake as well. Patience is in order. So is vigilance and perseverance.
The cashier looked weary behind her mask and Plexiglas shield as she rang up my milk, half & half and yogurt, so I asked “How are you today? Staying healthy?” She looked pleasantly surprised and thanked me for asking. What an opportunity to say, “I’ll pray for you.”
Pastor Tom Bridgman