As a young adult gazing at my mother’s cupboards, they were beyond-full of supplies. She had more Q-tips, more toilet paper, more first aid supplies, soap and shampoo, and more deodorant than she’d need in what seemed like two lifetimes. She had canned goods beyond the kitchen pantry, lining her garage cupboards too, right along with the tools.
I was proud of her preparedness, but also a little bit concerned with what might have been an “alarmist” attitude, stocking up for an Armageddon likely not to happen. My perspective came from a life of never having real lack–real starvation or hardship like she did as a sharecropper’s daughter. Sure, I wore my cousin’s hand me down clothes and we economized growing up, but real scarcity was not in my wheelhouse of life experience, for which I’ve been grateful.
Fast-forward in time and life’s challenges in living in a global pandemic provide a reminder of the many blessings many of us may have taken for granted. My parents and their generation, born during the Great Depression, endured market crashes, under- or unemployment, or even sneaking a piece of banana from a pig’s trough due to ongoing hunger. Look at Depression-era photos to see the hardship, the stark contrast to what many of us have not experienced in our comforts in life. It is this contrast between comfort and anticipated lack that drives people to buy up stockpiles of toilet paper. Fear does that to people. Nobody wants to feel pain or disruption of the status quo of abundance of life’s simple niceties.
People are contracting this Coronavirus, worldwide, and many are dying from it. People are anticipating or even dealing with loss of employment. The media memes of big box store supply-hoarding are starting to wane because the dreaded virus has finally become relevant in their midst, to their community. It’s no longer something to poke fun at because it’s become real. That doesn’t mean rule out humor, however, because when life gives you lemons, laughter really is the best coping mechanism.
So how else do we cope during this time of uncertainty? Prayer has been a lifeline even in good times, to voice gratitude; in times of turmoil prayer is the manna—that deep-down nourishment that sustains the soul—that cannot be substituted. Purpose may feel a bit muddled for the moment, but we will find it and run with it, because it too nourishes us.
A fulfilling purpose is service. Service in the home, and even while we are separating as a community to quell the spread of illness—particularly for those most vulnerable—with technology in place we can still serve in our community, even worldwide, through social media and other measures we feel inspired to do. Perhaps some may drive around our communities in their pickup trucks—their self-contained quarantine-mobiles—and fly our nation’s flag like we did after 9/11, reminding us that we are undivided and cannot be thwarted.
We can also cope like generations before us. We can “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” as needed to the best of our abilities. Learn to crochet reusable washcloths via an online tutorial or call up Grandma for wisdom. We try to grow our own food and chase away the snails and slugs from dining on our sustenance.
Previous generations endured polio and Spanish Flu, among other illness, World Wars and much more, without the medical know-how of today or the connection we have of social media and other technology to bridge the physical and emotional distance. Yes, that “connection” from technology that some lament that isn’t real or in-person becomes a lifeline of sorts as well. And if it were to dissapear during quarantine there is still prayer, prayer to a loving God who is not punishing us with a pandemic. It is what is is. Now we need to make the most of our situation and remember that we are never truly alone or forgotten.
In times of trial we more readily listen to that still, small voice of inspiration, and we innovate. We adapt, if needed. The lines of politics fade during times of necessity, because in times of necessity we seek the meaningful, the things that don’t divide but heal and uplift.
We are in need of spiritual support and sustainment. The body and mind can only take us so far. Strength of spirit is our real measurement of who we are as individuals and as a collective society.
Gratitude is a meaningful practice and perspective that enhances all situations. As we consider what it is we really need to endure the unknown, may we cultivate gratitude. And yes, we can be grateful for toilet paper.
Coronavirus may be a very brief blip on the radar of life, especially in the grand scheme of things. What we do during this “downtime” can influence us for good and for eternity.
—Loretta Boyer McClellan, March 14, 2020