The social isolation imposed on us since the Covid-19 appeared has not been too bad. I am a bit of a loner anyway and since my hip surgery in November I have been sticking pretty close to home. However, human nature being what it is, I admit to not minding staying home when it is my idea, but when someone else tells me to, that is a little different. On the lighter side I got to thinking I perhaps needed some human company when I was almost homicidal over a squirrel who has been devouring my bird feed when I am not watching. I am perhaps reaching a dangerous level of too much time alone with nature? At these junctures I am very grateful for the phone calls and points of contact with family and friends.
I live on the road to Makoshika Park and that has been busy. The wildness of the park is perfect for people to walk, hike, walk dogs, run and be far away from people. I see mommas with baby buggies, families walking kids and the dog, bikers. We are fortunate it is Spring and the weather is cooperating so we can be outside. Living in Montana, especially eastern Montana these days is a real plus. Social isolation and distancing is what we do best. I was so pleased when our Governor Steve Bullock put directives into place early on in the hopes of getting us ahead of the game as a state. He raised our awareness and that has been a good thing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also shown a lot of leadership with the huge problems he has in New York. I am beginning to think there should be a “draft Cuomo” movement for the Democratic nomination. Other governors as well have really accepted the challenge of leadership and those states who have governors like that are fortunate indeed.
It is difficult to believe there are still people who fail to see this epidemic for the great danger it is. There are even some who seem to shrug their shoulders and say, “Yes, some will die, but it is more important people keep working” or “let’s not overdo the assistance package.” They fail to recognize this is a “new normal” and this year of the Corona Virus 2020 will be a turning point for us as a nation much as was 9/11 2001. Those people who lived through the flu epidemic of 1918, the drought and depression of the 1930s and World War II and Viet Nam were marked for life. Experiences like these change the way you look at the world.
One author, Wanda Urbanska who wrote Heart of Simple Living, outlined some ways our perspective can change for the better. Her book outlines four tenets for critical times — environmental stewardship; thought consumption; community involvement; and financial responsibility. Part of the change comes because we now have “time” to think, to just be, to spend time with ourselves which is not a bad place to be. “Humans have peace of mind, freed time, and a sense of belonging, self-worth and accomplishment when we have taken frugality up with the same passion with which we sought wealth. The desire to survive may stir that passion in us when we fully realize that doing more of what we have been doing is fatal.”
Air pollution levels in Italy have dropped significantly since people must stay home. Even water pollution has eased in some places. While fighting the epidemic and doing what we can to save lives, could the epidemic be an indicator that we will perhaps take a second look at how we live and think and act and adjust that indicator for the betterment of our society and the world.
This prayer was passed on to me today. It comes from the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
for those who are ill
for those with little access to health care
for healthcare workers
for those who feel isolated
for those who are in unsafe places
for those who are anxious or worried
for leaders facing difficult decisions
for those who continue to work in challenging settings
for those driven by greed of careless disregard
I Thessalonians 5.16-18 --For we will rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.
Just saw my first robin. Eating up fallen birdseed with a huge flock of sparrows!!
Did you ever think a roll of toilet paper would be considered an exchange item or part of a barter system because of its value?? As I viewed the shelves at the grocery stores here in town empty of toilet paper and hearing the same stories from kin in St. Paul and Las Vegas and Rapid City, I admit to being a little dumbfounded with it all. The least of things is now a necessity for survival. When I couldn’t get any the other day I got to think about Kleenex and paper towels (although friends warned me about plugging the plumbing (Caution)) and then my mind jumped to stories of the “old days” when the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog served the purpose, according to my parents. Actually I do remember using outdoor facilities at the ranch and seeing a catalog available for the necessities. Toilet paper — who would have thought??!!
I remember reading about a book from 1722 called A Journal of the Plague Year. It was credited to Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) but there was some hesitation about actual authorship. It was written about the bubonic plague in Europe which made a run through Europe in the 1300s and 1400s and then again in the 1600s. The bubonic plague was caused by an abundance of rats and mice who carried ticks that led to the disease which is much different than what we have today. But a pandemic nonetheless, killing over a million people or so it is thought.
I am jotting down a few notes just when I experience something unique. My brother was shopping at Walmart in Las Vegas and said the shoppers were crazy. The majority of folks will not be quarantined. It might be wiser not to go out to eat as much as we normally do and the washing of hands has always been a wise habit. I can remember my mother saying, “Wash your hands when you come home from school or down town. You don’t know who has touched that.” I always wipe my grocery cart off and I am fussy about clean public rest rooms.
I guess it is all a matter of what you feel comfortable doing or not doing. Big hugs and constant handshakes, maybe not be so much anymore. “Discretion is the better part of valor.” The whole scenario which is playing out world wide is another wake-up call that life can turn on a dime. Where a few weeks ago we were all involved in a political election year, suddenly all that seems rather unimportant compared to being well or sick. It is also a good wake-up call for the federal government to not be “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to the wellbeing of all our citizens. Something like this creeps up and suddenly all bets are off not knowing what to expect or where this is going to go or when it will end. The Boy Scouts are right in their motto “Being prepared”. It is something we expect of our government — to be watchful and monitoring the world around us. Helping us deal with matters and issues we don’t understand or cannot control by ourselves. That is what we expect of our government, this is the role and function of government. This epidemic may influence governments around the world to a greater degree than we realize. Those in power had best tread carefully when the people speak.
I have been reading Erik Larson's new book The Splendid and the Vile which chronicles the blitz of London. This picture is from the frontpiece of the book. It says much about people and their love for reading and the undying lure of books.
For some reason I have had three words rattling around in my head: compassion, pity and empathy. If you look up their definitions, they share similar meanings. They would be considered synonyms. I can’t quite use them in the same way, however, for some reason for me, they differ in meaning by degree. They have different places they are used best and should be used under different circumstances. To each his own, but to me each one wears a slightly different hat.
“Pity” has a shallow ring to it. I am always reminded of (NRSV) James 2.15-16: “15If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” Feeling pity for someone means I feel sorry for them, but even more to the point I am glad it is them and not me. To pity someone there seems to be a “better than you” situation. I think we pity people who have what we perceive as character deficiencies. It is a word I seldom use. It seems to have a “nose in the air” feeling to it.
I am better with the word “compassion”. To feel compassion you have to get more into the skin of the individual involved. When there is a death in someone’s family I try to show compassion by really attempting to sense how they feel. To use compassion means it is not about me. I would hope people would see me as a compassionate person, who truly feels pain for others in their distress.
Then there is the word “empathy”. Actors try to become empathetic to the characters they are portraying. They have to get under their skin, to become that person as far as it is possible. It is perhaps the closest we come to the saying, “walking a mile in their moccasins”.
“Empathy” is the most difficult of the three because I can never truly know what it is like to be another person. My skin is white. How could I possibly know what it means to be black. Years ago there was a book entitled “Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus,” meaning neither sex could truly understand the other. There are some things in life you just have to accept. There is no way I can truly understand the parents who are refugees in Syria and must watch as their children are freezing to death in a humanitarian crisis. True empathy may be taking off your warm coat and giving it to someone who is suffering from the cold, thus putting yourself at risk. We must be very careful to never say the words “I know how you feel.” Every person, every situation is different and we must never presume to know.
I think the best we can hope for is compassion. “I am here for you. No, I don’t know what you are going through, but you hurt so therefore I hurt.”
I am not so sure I want involvement with the word “pity”. There is nothing I have done to be the person I am. I am not better than anyone else. If I am blessed with health, intelligence, and security then in compassion I am to share.
Words do have meaning. Words are powerful and we must be careful how we use them. A word has life when it is spoken or used in communication. What we convey by those words depends on how we interact and communicate with the people to whom they are addressed. So it is better to speak little and listen before we speak.