Life in small town America

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When the world stood silent…

It is not often that things move me deeply in everyday life, probably because I am a skeptic.  However, today was one of those days that the emotions rose to the top and my heart jumped into my throat.

From December 18 – March 11, I was literally housebound due to a knee injury that kept me on crutches. Then, on March 13, the world was on lockdown due to the pandemic COVID-19. Schools closed indefinitely, restaurants were only doing curbside delivers, non-essential businesses closed. So many people started making masks to give to people and to help healthcare workers.

I slogged through the whole time from March 13 through today hoping it would all be a bump in the road we all would endure for a few weeks.

I made face masks, read books, practiced on my new Bodhran drum, made homemade bread and pumpkin bars, played music way too loudly on the radio, walked the dogs many times, purged many boxes, filled the trash container, made hand sanitizer, attended several virtual meetings, listened to my pastor deliver sermons virtually on the church Facebook Live feed, and tried not to live on social media.

Today, however, I ventured to the city for a doctor’s appointment. When I entered the office, only two of the six chairs in the waiting area were present. There was a plastic shield over the formerly person-friendly check-in counter.  When a third person entered the doctor’s office, I was ushered into another waiting area with only three chairs, spaced six feet apart. My doctor and all of her employees were wearing face-masks. The office assistant had a tissue between her ear and the elastic band on her face mask to prevent more irritation from the band. Never before had I been in any doctor’s office where I saw people wearing medical grade face masks. I had only seen this in hospital stays for surgeries.

After this little diversion, I headed to Starbucks to get my FREE birthday coffee and some lunch. As I was driving into the mall complex where the Starbucks coffee shop was only serving at the drive-through window, I was stunned to realize the parking lot, which holds thousands of cars on any given day, was totally empty. There were NO CARS as far as the eye could see. My heart started pounding and I was becoming breathless as I pondered this sight.

My trek to the drive-through lane was not normal either. There were nearly two dozen cars lined up to purchase that wonderful elixir.  Most of the time when I go to that coffee shop, there are six cars. Drivers patiently moved forward at a faster than normal pace, which seemed surreal. Foodservice personnel literally PUSHED food bags out the window faster than I had ever seen at this drive-through window. After I inhaled said coffee in the parking lot, I went to get dinner and gas for my car.

I ventured then to Chik-fil-a to get salads for dinner using gift cards from Christmas. There were two lines inching along and 13 Curbside pick-up stations that were filled with anxious customers. Clerks hurridly raced food to these customers in crates, defying all moving vehicles in their paths.  Fortunately, I was able to place a mobile order that was immediately credited to my account. Once again, the foodservice clerk pushed my bag out gingerly through the pick-up window, and said “Have a great day.” I wondered if Chik-fil-a was the center of the universe for a moment.

On to the gas pump, I headed. Not only were there few cars at the gas station, but gas was $1.87 per gallon. In the 80s that price would have meant a race to get gas. I can still hear my Econ professor saying “less demand equals lower prices.” I usually pay $45 to fill up my 12-year-old Honda, but today I paid $25 to fill that same tank. For that I was grateful, for the short line I was grateful, for the few cars I was grateful, not so much for the cold lake wind blowing up across the lake plateau.

The next stop took me to another “essential” business, Aldi’s, to get a week’s worth of fresh fruits and vegetables and meat. I donned my homemade mask, got my cart from a store employee who had dutifully sanitized the cart for me. In the store, everyone I saw was wearing a mask. People were socially distancing. People stood six feet behind other customers to check out on blue tape floor markers. The cashier ensconced behind a plexiglass shield, scanned my groceries wearing surgical style gloves. As I pushed my cart to the car, I saw the sanitizer employee again and he also took my cart as I returned it, ready to sanitize it again. I am sure he was smiling because his eyes sparkled.

I am not one to get panic attacks, so this feeling of doom was new to me. As I drove home from this little adventure, I got the feeling I was in a time warp or a Ray Bradbury short story. I wondered when the terrific seniors I know would graduate, when I would hear band concerts and see high school plays or hear high school and middle school choirs sing again, when little kids would be permitted to have festive birthday parties with their friends, or when I could hug my dad once again. He turned 92 on Sunday.

I know all of this will mold our new normal, and if we will ever go back the life as we once knew it, our old normal.

COVID-19 is real and the far-reaching impact of it has changed the world. As we wait for the curve to flatten, we pray for our first responders, health care workers, our family members and friends who are on the front lines of this war against an invisible enemy.

Perhaps, in this time when the world has been silenced, may we hear something greater than ourselves, may we reach to Heaven for guidance, peace and hope, because that is where our normal begins. It reminds me of the verses in Philippians (2:10-11) which say “That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and in earth, and things under the earth: and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

And there rests my peace.