We’re getting all too familiar with some terms we now hear and read daily in the news, terms that had no meaning to us two months ago:
Flatten the curve. Social distancing. Shelter in place.
The coronavirus’ grip on our daily activities is unlike anything that’s been seen in St. Mary’s since the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, and there aren’t many folks around from that pandemic to compare notes with.
Our current situation is not like 9/11, a crippling snowstorm or the aftermath of a hurricane. In those cases, people were pulled together by the powerful magnet of community. We gathered to comfort each other, and to help those whose situations were worse than our own. That spirit of volunteerism has long been a hallmark of this county, and right now many good folks are aching inside at our collective inability to physically help each other.
Indeed, COVID-19’s impact has been different, and it’s certain to get worse before it gets better. Because we’re trying to avoid contracting and spreading a dangerous disease, we’re driven apart, even to the point of not being able to gather socially in groups of any appreciable size. That, of course, runs counter to the very notion of community.
But people adjust however they can. For me personally, a mundane trip to the California trash transfer station Saturday morning offered an impromptu chance to briefly chat — at an appropriate social distance — with two other guys who were there as well to toss their garbage and deposit their recycling. Small talk, for sure, since we were all strangers, but as I returned to my car, I felt a little less alone driving back to Hollywood in the oddly light traffic on Route 235.
People just want to be around other people sometimes. That’s our nature.
The prohibition of most normal social routines outside our homes has affected us all to some degree. But it seems the threat of the coronavirus has dealt a particularly nasty punch in the gut to communities of faith. Think about it.
For those so inclined, this is precisely the time people want to congregate and offer prayers in supplication and thanksgiving to fortify their courage, and to feel like they belong to something bigger. And for now, they can’t gather. Some churches have gotten creative, with livestreaming services or certain outdoor gatherings in groups of 10 or fewer people. But it’s not the same.
One of my uncles used to say, “pressure busts pipes, but it also makes diamonds.”
Here’s hoping for some gems of humanity as we struggle through this strangest of springs together.