Waking up this morning, I feel Christmas sneaking in on me. There are clouds and the possibility to see snowflakes in the air, and it is cold–24 degrees. And yet, I am in quarantine.
Christmas has been central to my life forever. Growing up on the farm, Christmas was a time we developed all those traditions that seem to make a Norman Rockwell painting–cutting the Christmas tree out in the woods, snow falling, popcorn snacks, Christmas baking. You get the picture.
But then 2020, a year that we all suspected would be filled with clarity and hope simply based on that nice, round number and the metaphoric connection to clear vision, hit us hard.
News reports of a highly contagious virus started creeping into our psyche, and in March a shut down. We did not understand the full ramifications of a nation-wide shutdown but what was a nation to do. Shut down.
Then slowly, life adapted. Fear subsided a bit, but caution was maintained. In my world, masks stay in the car, in my purse or pocket, and they go on when I get out of the car. Even at the office, the mask went on when someone walked into our bubble or we had a conversation–still 6 feet apart, too.
Months slid past, then we got bit by the bug. COVID hit us both and in very different ways. My husband coughed and coughed and coughed until he thought he had broken ribs. He was totally wiped out.
Then just a few days later, I started questioning how I felt. I thought it was mild sinus problem and started the sinus meds with Mucinex. A conversation with the county health nurse pushed me to test–positive, too.
So we found ourselves in an honest, full-fledged quarantine. Smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest seasons in my life–Advent. For a pastor this just seemed surreal. How was I going to contribute to the season’s worship?
Well, I can now tell you that there are ways to make things work and work well. True I have given up the in-person element, but the months of preparation made it possible to still provide an element of input–Zoom, videotaping at home, and emailing. I can work at home.
Still, quarantine has dramatically changed our lives in so many ways. Working is one thing but stop and consider all the other affects that COVID-19 has created in our world.
Health: I seriously doubt that our news channels have ever spent so much airtime explaining how to be healthy, the specifics of the coronavirus, how it spreads, how the medical field is managing, and how to know when you are sick and when to get tested. I have to admit I would never have thought the symptoms I was experiencing were anything to be concerned about except I had been informed. Thank you to the information flood.
Work Force: Our economy is challenged. We had been living in a society that could ignore the lowest economic strata convincing our middle class and affluent selves that we are privileged to live in our nation free from extreme poverty–and then the pandemic. Our work force has been depleted. Families are in crisis with job losses, income loss, and so many more problems.
Our culture is being redefined. I have witnessed one young family become one victims and then watch the church family rally around them. As I sit here with the news on, I am watching a country learn how critical it is to provide food for the masses. City after city is being featured for their food drives and it is shocking to see the massive lines of cars.
2020 is going to redefine the work force culture and I pray that the CEO’s and boards understand that our world can collapse if they do not value the employees as the most important component of their industries.
Medical Services: Because we are a democracy and capitalism is the base of our culture, we have a medical industry that has focused on profit not on service. Then the pandemic shifted the focus to the frontline workers. For the first time in my life, I see our country value the nurses, the doctors, the EMTs, even the nurses’ aids who clean the patients, the technicians, the custodial staff and so many, many employees essential to the wellbeing of our family and friends.
Hopefully this will force our culture to redefine their values. Our medical industry needs to be identified as a necessity and be aligned to the utilities that are necessary for a society to function. The profit margin needs to be monitored and the medical workers should be valued as highly as they are now on throughout history.
Education: Teachers are frontline workers, too. Our country guarantees a free education to all who live within our boundaries. Why have we failed to acknowledge the critical role of our teachers? Why are our teachers one of the lowest paid professionals? Why do we put educational requirements on our teachers but do not support that financially?
When the pandemic shut down our world, the teachers had to keep teaching. But the teaching shifted to an entirely different platform for which the majority of teachers were never trained. We forced in-person teaching to turn on a dime (pardon the cliché) to teach virtually. And some of the teachers did not even have the actual technology they needed to teach from a remote setting.
I could rant and rave about this issue even more because I know education personally having spent 35+ years in education, but I know each family knows what happened in education with the pandemic. I know that the kiddos are suffering. I know that the level of education with which we think or even expect our students to graduate has been severely damaged and will not be able to rebound even within a couple of years.
We have failed our students because we failed to teach them to learn, to take safe risks, and now to be resilient.
We must teach our kids how to learn so when forced to step away from the classroom they can learn independently. Teachers have long been forced to teach to tests and state standards; saddly we have forgotten the components on which we must build.
Maybe the pandemic will serve as a magnifying glass for our culture.
Maybe we can stop and reassess the values that we have said we support, but failed.
Maybe we can begin 2021 with a new mindset and go back to what our American values were just 244 years ago, when our founding fathers declared their independence and wrote a constitution that continues to be the backbone of our nation.
Therefore, to conclude, I am in quarantine with a mild case of COVID-19. I do not feel guilty because I followed the recommendations. I do not feel alienated because I tested positive. But I do feel a responsibility to do all that I can for all I can in any way I can as we move into 2021. I am Methodist after all, and John Wesley led his world to be healthy, to serve and to be the hands of feet of God. It is one of our American values.