Did you think that it would take us weeks and weeks to adapt to the new social distancing and isolation ways of life? Here, in this little house, it’s quickly become perfectly normal. We don’t forget to keep two metres away from others outside, and we remember to wash our hands frequently, we wipe the handles and the light switches with disinfectant. We don’t much notice what the time is, or which day of the week it is (but Sunday still looms large) we eat when we’re hungry, and when we step outside for our daily exercise we just wander and wander and think and sing and while away the hours. When we see friends, a wave means as much as a conversation, and the simplest greeting across the roadway or the beach is as loving and real as any hug.
It all feels strangely comfortable.
Our separated family has a three or four or five way conversation on snapchat and the girls still tease their dad, their mum is still funny and quick, and I’m in there somewhere. In normal conversation I lag behind a step or two because of my deafness, making up words where I’ve missed them….. and on snapchat I lag a a step behind because it’s snapchat and my fingers aren’t as quick (or my brain) as theirs. So no change there. We are the same people having the same interaction.
Even the silent roads have become the norm. I had to take the car for its MOT today in an Industrial Estate, an incongruous area of concrete and metal buildings on the slopes of the beautiful Preseli Mountains (they’re not mountains really) and while I waited I sat in the sun, just thanking God for the Ministry of Transport rules that meant I had an extra hour outside. I have no garden, so permitted time outdoors is very very precious. VERY precious. And so a chore became a delight.
‘Give thanks in all circumstances’. Thank you, dear Father, for the sun and the fields, for this industrial estate, for these smiling mechanics, and for the MOT test (oh, and please could I get a pass certificate?)
As I write this sentence it’s just gone 8pm and we’ve all been out onto the village High Street applauding and serenading the NHS. Slabs of yellow light, spilling out of doorways, warming the night air, laughter and singing and applause, even piercing whistles shrilling up into the listening sky. Lovely. Thank you NHS, thank you doctors, nurses and carers, ambulance drivers, shop workers, supply drivers, all of you, everywhere.
But it ain’t all beer and skittles, and people are ill and dying. I don’t want to be a Pollyanna here at my desk, in a halo of light and a circle of smugness. The world is in chaos, and people are suffering.
I think our daily, banal enemy now is lethargy and depression. It’s hard to be energetic and purposeful when you just have a couple of things to do, instead of the usual dozen. And it’s pointless being efficient when you have all day to do them in anyway. And if it doesn’t really matter if you don’t do them until tomorrow, or the next day, why not put it off? It’s even more of a slippery slope for those who live alone… who will know if you make you bed or not…. And a marmalade sandwich probably has as much good in it as a salad. Just different. And who cares what you wear if no one is going to see you?
I am blessed just now to have a grandchild living with me, but I have been alone for many many years and I know the dangers, the soul destroying bleakness, of living alone, and of being lonely. Loneliness is a boulder that weighs you down, pins you to your bed, blocks out the light, crushes your heart. You forget that there is love, and that you can be loved, that you can love.
So, listen, you know what I think is important now? I think it’s important that each and every one of us reaches out to someone else at least once a day.
I may be wrong. I’m often wrong. But just now, in this instance, I don’t think I am.
As I sat in the sunshine on that Industrial Estate, one of our church blokes came for a 2 metre chat. He read a verse to me, from Isaiah, and it was startlingly apt. The men (who like to keep these things to themselves, among themselves) had been sharing the verse online and he accidentally let it slip to me. Tsk. He’ll be in such trouble…..
Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.
But with the internet and phones and fine weather for walking out, we can hide ourselves in plain sight, plain sight to those who need to see us, and to be seen by us.