We’re all in this together
By Outer Banks Voice on March 23, 2020
By Rick Lawrenson
Culture never stays the same. And with the advent of so much technology, things change ever more rapidly. Dylan was right when he said that, “The Times, They are A-changing.” He just had no idea how rapidly the times would change in the spring of 2020. None of us did. Who thought they would be giving up so much for Lent? This “new normal” is no fun.
So, here we are. The threat of a rapidly expanding killer (sometimes) virus headed our way. And with it, a plunging economy. Here on the Outer Banks we haven’t yet seen the virus show its ugly head, but we’ve seen the negative impact it has on the prognosticators’ predictions. Schools are out of session. The bridges are closed to the money that crosses them. Restaurants are only open for take-out orders. Heck, the guy at the local tackle shop told me this morning that they were closing tomorrow for at least two weeks. 7-11 is even starting deliveries! “I’ll have two banana Slurpees, please.”
And no one really knows answers to a lot of the pertinent questions. When will it arrive? How long will it last? How will I care for my kids? Will I get laid off and if so, how can I provide for my family? Where will I buy some toilet paper? On and on the questions go. With so many questions, we’re all in a search for answers. But like love, we too often look in the wrong places. And with many of the “answers” we find comes more anxiety.
I heard it said that “The truth will set you free.” Jesus said that. So, let me suggest some truth, some facts that I hope will bring some calm in your life.
- This, too will pass. We know that already. In China, where it began, the cases have dropped significantly from when it began. It apparently, the experts are saying, has a shelf life. It isn’t permanent, although here in the US, the experts say it has a ways to go before the downhill side of the bell curve. But, one day things will turn the corner. Let’s hope and pray it’s sooner than later.
- Don’t believe everything you see or hear. All of a sudden everyone’s an epidemiologist. And here is where most of the panic and anxiety originate. “I heard…” “Someone told me…” “Such and such a news outlet reported…” The truth is much of what we hear and see in today’s media (and I know, I’m writing this for a media outlet) is conjecture and opinion, not facts. But there are some who are using this pandemic for political and/or financial gain. And as can be expected, politicians can be the worst in fanning flames. Focus on fact. No need for a lot of this debate that isn’t so friendly. You’re not an expert. Neither am I.
- Limit your time on social media and cable “news.” Unless they are directly quoting the experts (the CDC for example), ignore them. Besides, all they tend to do is stir up fear and worry about something none of us can control. But I can control what I allow my eyes to see and my ears to hear. Give yourself a quarantine from the media and rumor mills. I’ve blocked a local Facebook group from showing up on my feed because it has turned into a gossip/rumor page. I don’t need that. Neither do you.
- Do what you can do to stop the spread. The medical experts are telling us a few things. It’s not that they’re simple things, but they can slow the spread down, which will ultimately save lives. No one knows how unknowingly you or I can come in contact with someone who also unknowingly has picked up the virus and hasn’t yet shown any symptoms. We can’t know those things. And simple ignorance like that can wind up taking the lives of the most vulnerable. It’s not just about protecting yourself, but those around you.
So, wash your hands frequently. I carry two bottles of hand sanitizer in my truck. If I go out for something, I touch things…door handles, gas pumps, that gallon of milk in the dairy section, the change handed me by the cashier, the debit card I’ve inserted, and after who? I don’t know! Avoid going out and about unless it is absolutely necessary. Practice safe social distancing from one another. Don’t gather in groups. Today it’s 10, tomorrow it will probably be half that. None of us know what we can’t see.
- Not everyone is at equal risk from the virus. For some people it imitates a cold. For others it would be a death sentence. My daughter-in-law, with a chronic illness and no immune system is one of those. So, not everybody is going to die from it. But, some, maybe here, will. Just don’t go to the extreme in either view. You’re not Superman. However, this virus could be your kryptonite if you think you are.
- We’re all in this together. Being a “novel” virus, there is no natural immunity, no shot to take, yet. Some, due to the economic ramifications, will suffer more than others, but almost all of us will feel the effects of the downturn. And in the coming days we may all be required to stay home. So, look out for one another. None of us know if someone within our circle of friends might suffer illness or loss of life, either their own or that of a loved one. Use your phone, your access to social media, your email to check up on your neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable. Find random acts of kindness and encouragement you can give.
- Trust in God. Got faith? Put it into practice. Nothing brings me more calm than knowing that my God promises to lead me “through the valley of the shadow of death.” I think that’s what this pandemic is – a dark valley. But I know I don’t have to go through it alone. His comfort and guidance mean I can “fear no evil.” He’s got this. And He promises me that “The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Any which way this thing goes, I’m at peace because of that promise. Eternal life is a wonderful thing to possess.
(Sunday morning, I brought an online message to my church, “Where is God in this Crisis?”. You’re more than welcome to listen in if you’re seeking peace from God. You can find it at nagsheadchurch.org/podcast or on the Nags Head Church Facebook page.)
This thing is unprecedented, at least in our lifetimes. And the unknown is what is so frightening. But I think if you’ll consider these things, you’ll do all right as you pass through this valley. I look forward to seeing you out and about on the other side in all the usual places! Together we’ll get through this.
Rick Lawrenson is the Head Pastor at the Nags Head Church and serves as Chaplain to the Nags Head Fire and Police Departments.