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Shelter in Place

(April 10, 2020)

I sit here with my local community sheltering in place, navigating state and local mandates about what to do, how to do it and the consequences of what could happen if it is not done.  I have just gotten off a 14 day self-imposed quarantine.  I flew back to Los Angeles from my sabbatical in Texas on March 20th.  Navigating through two airports and a trip on the Fly Away bus from LAX to the Valley made me COVID possible.  Thank God there have been no symptoms.  Other humans have not been so fortunate.  As I sit and watch the daily news conferences I hear about deaths, hospital census numbers, PPEs, ventilators, bed space and an invitation to think “WE” in balance with “I”. 

The words Fr. Medaille wrote in the Eucharistic Letter keep returning to me.  “…our cherished association will be a body without a body, a congregation without a congregation, and an order without being an order…”  Medaille continues on to say that The Little Design will always appear to be nothing, yet God will make of it what it is to become.  As I watch the COVID pandemic unfold, it is the seemingly “invisible” Dear Neighbor who is holding our lives and limbs together.  We refer to them as “essential” workers on the front line of the virus war.  Not only health care professionals, but people who harvest our food, people who clean the public spaces that have to stay open, our mail carriers who ride in white delivery vans or walk our streets with bags of mail slung over their shoulders.  Numerous UPS and FedEx trucks travel up and down my street delivering goods that eliminate people like me from venturing forth into public spaces. The invisible Dear Neighbor that keeps their six feet social distance is essential to my well being.  Selfless dedication, the hidden presence similar to Jesus in the Eucharist, keeps the rest of us alive and healthy.  The other evening the family who lives behind us was out for their walk.  I greeted them and asked the youngest daughter, who looks to be 3 or 4, if she was staying home to help mom and dad.  She shook her head and told me flatly, “No, I’m staying home to keep healthy.”  That was her goal, supported by the hidden and selfless efforts of her parents.   

As another week of staying home confines us, reflect on who are your “ventilators,” “PPEs,” “beds.” Who breathes for you when you cannot breathe on your own? Who wraps you in their protective love when you feel vulnerable and emotionally raw? Who allows you to rest when emotional and physical fatigue invades your COVID weary body.  These are “The Dear Neighbor without The Dear Neighbor.” The “hidden who appear to be nothing” whom God makes of them what they need to be at this particular period of time. Perhaps a simple “Thank you” is in their future?  Stay safe.  Wash your hands.   

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