I have been using this picture recently and I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain it in a little more context. First, I feel I must point out that I am listening to medical professionals who are encouraging modifying our lives to prevent the spread of infectious disease. If limiting our contact with one another can save lives then we need to comply.
I do not like talking about any aspect of a global pandemic as a blessing, however I think there is one great opportunity. I see somewhat comical approaches saying things like, “we can save lives by sitting on the couch, let’s not screw this up.” But we can go beyond that. We have the opportunity to re-evaluate our society and to address issues in its foundation. So many people I know long for the good old days when neighbors all knew each other, where people looked out for one another, and kids felt free to play anywhere. We want a society where families are together and forge loving relationships. We want a society where people are employed and earn a respectable income. We want a society where our seniors are cared for. Most of all we want a society that is loving and kind.
We have the opportunity to create such a society. One thing that I have plenty of right now is time. Time allows me to create new habits, ones which will be more in line with the society I say I want. After all, society consists of people living their lives together. How I choose to live my life impacts how my society is constructed. If people are focused on money, society will be driven by economics. If people are focused comfort, their will be a push toward entertainment. So the habits I develop in my life can impact the circle around me a.k.a the society with which I am most connected.
Little changes in my life, like taking time to plan my meals and grocery shopping can have a big impact. Planning meals means fewer trips to drive-thus, which means more money for me to use on local restaurants. planning meals and grocery trips also allows me to plan and think about family time. If I am planning meals I can think about how my kids will interact with that meal and what it can do for our family. If I am planning my trips to the store in advance, I can call elderly friends or neighbors and ask them if I can do shopping for them. Suddenly, I might find myself building a relationship with a person who is now a distant acquaintance. I might even find that dropping a meal on a front porch is a true blessing to a senior.
I have also noticed over the last week I have been on the phone a lot, I have been through my contact lists calling many more people I know. Intentionally sending messages to more people than usual, simply checking in with people especially those who live alone. As I have done this I begin to think more about my community, not simply the people I have talked with but those who I have not. I am becoming more aware of how little I have contact with most of the individuals I know. I am taking steps to become a more engaging person, and as I do I am hoping that others respond and begin reaching out to me.
I have been forced to think more about my children’s education, not that I am an absentee parent. As I work with my kids on their homework I have become even more engaged with how they learn and learning how to teach them. This will serve me later as I talk with their teachers about their classroom education. I am also being forced to look at myself and recognize there are subjects i could learn more about. I am taking time every day to learn, intentionally learn, as if I am back in school. And I am quick to point this out to my kids. I tell them that I am going to school and need to grow and they are slowly grasping the reality that learning is a lifelong project.
Diversions are lacking right now, I’m already sick of television. My solution hikes, yard-work, and making up family activities. suddenly I’m looking around at creation wondering how I can make it better. How can me and my family clean up the world.
Most of all, I am re-thinking God & church. what does it mean for me to spend time with God right now? Am I taking enough of my new found alone time for prayer? how am I connecting to other believers in their times of isolation? What does it mean to worship together? How does the normal Sunday morning worship help people or create distance?
Not one of the things I am doing right now is a major life altering change. And each of these new found habits can translate into a post-quarantine life. My new found concern for others can translate into tighter relationships, more concern for seniors, more compassion for the loneliness experienced by those without family, a greater awareness for the world around me.
I know I am not the only person to recognize this fact, but if people will stop focusing on the fact they are physically isolated and start focusing on how they can create a new society, the foundations of our life together will be greatly improved. Compassion is the cornerstone of loving relationships, and is formed from the Latin phrase “to suffer together”. We are currently suffering together as a society, we need to learn how this suffering can lead us to compassion and ultimately to love. There is no guarantee that one follows the other, we cannot simply sit on the couch and save lives. However, we can use this time of sitting on the couch to better interact with those around us and become better people creating a better society. And so I urge you
Do not simply practice social distancing– practice building society despite the distance.