“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” - Fred Rogers, Won't You Be My Neighbour
I wonder what Fred would do during this planetary lockdown? Maybe we need a revival of wristbands asking WWFD? I think he'd definitely be talking about it, helping us process feelings and calm fears. He'd certainly be compassionate and ask what he could do to help. I think the nations could all benefit from sitting at Fred's knee right now and listening to his soothing words.
I chatted to a young man at the cinema last night, the last night before they all closed down today. He was so lost, so worried, he didn't know what he was going to do for work when he woke up today. Another young man who was sweeping and clearing shelves nearby, I think he wanted to be felt for also and shown sympathy, was drawn in by our conversation and joined us. I said how sorry I was for them and was sure they'd find something as they were both such fine young men.
I chatted also to another young lady whose mum was really scared because they couldn't find any toilet paper and were almost out. Her mum had been going early each morning when the shops opened but the shelves were always empty. I brought her some of ours and also shared some encouraging words from the Lord to help soothe her anxiety. She smiled.
People are really afraid, especially when you have no anchoring hope. My heart is hurting for them, but I think it needs to hurt more. Some offer advice on what to do during the lockdown to make this a time of fun and new discoveries, and that for sure has a place in all this. But so many today who are on the poverty line or low incomes, the self-employed, have woken up wondering how they will eat, how they will pay the rent, pay the bills, pay their staff who depend on them. People are panicked.
“It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking". Luke 21
Couldn't this sound like today?
My thoughts have been taken often to those who lived and fought through WWII. We find ourselves in yet another unprecedented season, a war of sorts but against an enemy who wears no identifiable uniform. How did those folks make it through, how did they manage to Keep Calm And Carry On?
'People around the world kept up their morale by creating a tighter community to support one another. Many people attended church and became closer to God. He became their source of hope and faith. Letters were written to one another and to soldiers. Hollywood entertainment industry opened several canteens for soldiers where they could be entertained and get free food and delightful friendship. Music and movies helped those who had the extra money to attend them. The radio often bolstered their morale when the audience would hear of victorious battles. They read books, played cards, did war work at the home front and in Britain the evacuees learned to enjoy being in the countryside safe away from the bombing. The soldiers kept up their morale with letters from home, newspapers, radio, strong camaraderie and the help of Chaplains'
I see the tension being managed in this paragraph, I see the importance of beauty, art, music, books, entertainment and love. I also see the practical ways needs were met through rationing, sharing and opening up of homes. The opening line says they *created* a tighter community, friends I do think it's time to get creative and take initiative in reaching out to our neighbours.
I have been saddened seeing some seniors in our community, wandering empty ransacked isles, unable to buy one loaf of bread, they're at a loss, bewildered, angry and afraid. I believe this is not so much due to the leanness on the shelves but because of the leanness of heart they're seeing in their fellow mankind.
I know this leanness is in me. I stood there gobsmacked that everyone had taken all the Oatly 'Hey Barista' Oatmilk, you know, the one that froths. How could they? Oh my... Thankfully this thought was momentary but to quote Mr Bennett from Pride & Prejudice, "I'm heartily ashamed Lizzie, but I'm sure it will pass and much sooner that I'd like". I am so used to having all these luxuries, truly, I am overfed on the things I desire, that scarily a leanness crept into my soul.
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.
We're in danger of having everything we want yet be in possession of little value.
Fear also has entered into the hearts of many and is causing some to act in a way that neglects to think of the most vulnerable in our neighbourhoods. And how can fear not encompass us when we're are hanging on each new headline and speaking of 'what-ifs' in every passing conversation. We are in a battle to resist being dragged down at every turn into the trenches of fear.
I've been pondering the goodness and faithfulness of God, how He says 'for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose' (Rom 8:28) and takes 'what the devil intends for our harm God uses for good' (Gen 50:20).
How can fear and this situation be used for good?
I love this quote from Elizabeth Goudge's book Gentian Hill. I'm attempting to read this wonderful book through March as part of the elizabethgoudgebookclub community on Instagram.
“There’s one thing which, out of my doctors experience both in war and peace, I think I can explain, and that’s how to deal with fear… every man has within him a store of strength, both physical and spiritual, of which he is utterly unaware until the moment of crisis. You will not tap it until the moment of crisis, but you can be quite certain that when that moment comes it will not fail you. It’s not easy to believe this, but you must...” Dr. Crane in chapter 12 (book 1).
This moment of crisis is upon us and I sense the possibility of a rebirthing coming to all, to Christians, a freshness and newness of knowing life. I picture Jesus standing at the tomb of the deceased Lazarus and crying aloud to him, "Lazarus, come forth!" I am being called further out of darkness, out of decay and lifelessness and into the light, into restoration of self. We have the opportunity to strip the layered heavy death rags from our lives and arise better than before. I agree with Dr. Crane above, we are about to tap into our greatest selves yet!
We will get through this.
Just like so many others before us who have faced adversity, real adversity, or are living in that reality now prior to Covid-19 such as POWs, persecuted and marginalised peoples, we will get through this. One way or another, as I look beyond the virus, the tears and sorrow, I'm also reminded that we live in the 'now but not yet', this is not the end of the story. The following words from the opening scriptures go on to encourage, "Now when these things begin to occur, stand tall and lift up your heads [in joy], because [suffering ends as] your redemption is drawing near.” There will be an end to suffering temporarily and eternally. We will get through this and on the other side we will again rejoice; we'll touch, taste, and drink in the fullness of life around us! We'll savour the cinema and revel in a restaurant gathering. I hope and pray I can go out from this changed, more empathetic, living simpler, more grateful. Richer for it.
I love the opening song to Fred Roger's old show Won't You Be My neighbour, in a clip which compares the first time he sang it to the very last, Fred beautifully states "It doesn’t matter what it’s like outside, it can be a beautiful day inside". I'm asking how I can make it a beautiful day for those inside today.
There is a well known English saying that florists use (maybe it's universal?) 'Say It With Flowers'. The idea of course is that if you want to show someone you care you send them flowers. Well, I'm finding at the moment I can Say It With Toilet Paper! or _________ (Fill in the blank); a note, baking, errand run, babysitting, sharing resources, a phone call/Vox/Marco Polo, a hand written letter, email, Live Stream, asking after people's wellbeing...
When we commit to love, to listen, to be patient and bear with others (and ourselves) with grace, we ARE waging war against the darkness. The shelves might be empty but our hearts and homes can be full. It might look pretty dark as you look to the news but the light will shine brightest in that darkness, this could be our finest hour. Personally, what does this look like? I'm digging down deep and rousing myself to good works and of course that starts at home, with my husband and children. How might they be feeling, what thoughts are scaring them or keeping them awake at night? If I find myself with a leanness of attitude I'm asking God to forgive me and show me how to imitate Him instead (Luke 6:35)
We are in unprecedented times. As individuals, families, communities, churches, nations, we are being asked questions of ourselves we never would have imagined just a few weeks ago but I truly believe the answers are at hand, they are within us, and the final outcome will be a sweet and beautiful thing indeed.
We will get through this, together <3