Yesterday was a sort of "grief day".
I ventured out to pick up a few things from the store: milk, veggies, jam for the local food bank, dog bones, and the ever-present wish-list item, toilet paper. At the store, I donned my mask and walked to the entrance. There was an employee guarding the door to make sure people lined up and waited, at the appropriate 6-foot intervals, because they were limiting the number of shoppers. I wasn't allowed to bring in my reusable bags. As I entered, I was instructed to exit by the entrance at the opposite end of the store.
While in the store, signs directed me, one way down each aisle and reminders abounded to observe social distance. The paper goods aisle was bare, but for a few lonely packages of paper towel - no toilet paper for me, again. Other items were also beginning to be in short supply, with employees spreading the stock out on shelves to make it look less alarming.
Another employee was directing people at the checkout, mask firmly in place. When I finished with my self-checkout, someone else came behind me, armed with a spray bottle and paper towel, to give the station a thorough wipe down before the next customer could enter. And as I left the store, a man on spoke into a two-way radio, relaying the exit of one person to the entrance guard.
As an introvert with grown children, I love staying home. My husband has a stable income. As someone who has had the privilege of travel, I've visited and lived in third world countries, where every grocery list is a wish list, and a grocery store is a tiny storefront with a narrow aisle in, and a narrow aisle out. I've cooked from scratch and used a community spigot for water. I don't have the shell shock that many families and individuals find themselves experiencing right now.
So many westerners have never been touched by want, or the kind of uncertainty and lack of perceived control of these past few weeks. Suddenly they can't have what they want in the store. They can't come and go as they please. They can't go out and have their food cooked, plated, served, and cleaned up. They can't go to the gym or the salon. So many parents are scrambling as they try to work from home and occupy or school their children for the first time. Families who were dependent on two incomes are down to one, or none, without notice.
My sadness is for them. But it is also for the others, because I hear them. I hear the other side, scoffing and sarcastic:
"Oh no, they'll have to actually cook and clean!"
"They can't just have what they want? Poor, privileged people!"
"They aren't homeschooling! They have no idea what it's like to do all the work like homeschooling parents do!"
"Oh, so they have to entertain their own children. What a trial!"
"Huh. They can't just do what they want.... Pity!"
Yes. I understand. Many in the western world are privileged. They've not had to struggle or go without. Sometimes it can feel like just desserts to see the wealthy experiencing what the rest of the world deals with on a daily basis. But I feel compassion just the same. To be thrust into the bewildering panic of the unknown, the confusion of performing activities rarely or never done, the overwhelm of suddenly not being able to provide wants and needs for self and family -- these are difficult and scary things.
My prayer: May we all develop deeper character. May we be more kind. May we think of others more often. May we grow more generous. May we offer help more readily. May we hold our wants more lightly, passing them over in favour of others' needs. May we be more grateful. May we give thanks for the many things we take for granted. May we be less critical and more supportive of each other. May we all see with clearer eyes what we have to offer and what we have to learn, and may we engage in both the offering and the learning with whole hearts. May we seek more to bless than to receive.