Here I am, staring at this scene, wishing I was talented enough to paint this into a gorgeous landscape work of art. What an idyllic Spring day at the beach. You can’t see them in the photo, but there are wildflowers in the grasses, and the fog was filtering the sunlight so beautifully. I want to describe it as a “carefree” day, but that would have to be a misnomer seeing as the threat of Covid-19 hangs thick in the air.
Still, it’s been a beautiful day so far. Ennie has been playing catch with the boys all morning and the beach has remained mostly empty in that time, until, of course, the siren call of the ice-cream truck drew people from the other homes nearby. Earlier, the three young women in our household went for a 4.5 mile extended workout on the beach. Coach Maddie is doing her part to make sure her track athletes are ready to compete again, if that time ever comes. As for the “little girls”, Lucia and Zelie have been frolicking on the beach for hours already, with only a pause to play “Restaurante de Mama” for brunch, thereby practicing the Spanish we would have actually been forced to use if we had gotten to go to take our Pilgrimage to Guatemala for Spring Break, as was the original plan.
That was certainly a sad day. That moment, (like so many as of late) when fear and the virus that accompanies it, finally laid waste to our long hoped for, and best laid plans, and sent our part of the world scrambling to adjust, and to be prepared, and to protect ourselves from suffering illness or loss.
Nothing like a global pandemic to inspire “fear of neighbor”, amiright? Don’t get me wrong, I recognize this virus is a very serious illness. My family and I are certainly adopting every recommended procedure within our power to help curb the effects of this devastating illness on ourselves, and especially on the most vulnerable in our communities. We are vigilantly washing our hands and practicing social distancing measures to the best of our ability. I mean even as this precious ice-cream truck scene unfolded, I found myself with fears running through my head.
Does the man driving the truck and peddling the syrupy blue dyed popsicles my children selected wash his hands?! Does he sanitize his hands in-between credit card and cash transactions with customers? What’s his story? Has he been exposed to the virus that causes Covid-19? Perhaps he has a family at home praying he can make good sales today?
Surely before all this started, he was looking forward to the week of Spring Break as one of his bigger money making weeks of the year. Are the safety concerns I have for my own family worth denying him our portion of the small, probably very welcome income he will receive today? Not to mention, of course, the drama and tears it would cause my own dear children if I acted on my impulse of fear and veto’d my husband's loving decision to indulge our children in this sweet delight.
Fear of neighbor. It feels very real. And it’s a wake-up call to me. As someone who has long been trying to apply the gospel message of “love your neighbor” through practical, down to earth strategies of hospitality and encounter, like our weekly open porch -- this whole quarantine thing feels like a cruel joke. The current recommendation is that my own family of nine should only be allowed to gather with a maximum of one other person making a total of 10. ONE guest!? It feels foreign to me!
As a side note, I will admit that I’ve spent a bit of time reflecting on the idea of who I’d choose to invite into our home since it can only be one person. I think I’ve settled on a priest. The problem is, the best priests I know would likely be with their own dear families if forced to isolate from their larger flocks. Hmm...how about a mendicant then? We’d have to find a traveling man of the cloth who could bring us the Eucharist itself, and on the promise of that merciful sacrifice we would sustain ourselves against fear. Oh dear, my imagination really can run wild!
And so I draw myself back to this present moment. What grace, what true gift it is that in this beautiful, beautiful moment, our children are safe and fed. Our immune systems seem to be strong, and my family is getting rest, nourishment, exercise and lots and lots of quality time. I do not know what the future holds. All I know is that now, in this present moment I am called to love my most immediate neighbors -- meaning my husband and my children. I’m finding myself content with making time to encounter them, hold space for them, and serve their needs with the gift of hospitality. I’m leaning into the practice of gratitude, and noticing beauty in the ordinary. What an unexpected way we’ve been forced to slow the heck down and practice, really practice loving each other -- which has always been our highest call anyway. I suppose the only thing that could make this moment better is if the cooking, dishes, and laundry were doing themselves.