There are mixed feelings about this expansion of our safe place to mingle with others.
We have all developed new routines, which have replaced our old way of doing things.
Some of us have been locked away from our families. Others have enjoyed the closeness of their loved ones compulsorily restrained to their homes, elevating home to the safest place to be.
Some parents are anxious about releasing their children to the school system, and are holding back to see how the ‘guinea pig’ students and teachers adjust to the new rules. How will they control children’s natural jostling and playing together? Social distancing is virtually impossible to sustain with younger children. Frequent handwashing may be manageable, but preventing the touching of faces is wishful thinking.
We have been blessed by mostly fine autumn weather through the lock-down. Social isolation in patient queues outside supermarkets, pharmacies, medical clinics and other necessary places, will be unpleasant and risky when rain and chilly weather overcomes us towards Winter. Reduced restrictions, plus more mobility may cause a renewed outbreak and potential spread of the virus. Self- quarantine will continue to be expected of responsible citizens as the regular flu, coughs and colds naturally attack the vulnerable among us.
Like Alice through the looking glass, we’re tentatively stepping into new territory. The whole world is likewise moving carefully from isolation back into bubble-bumping of a ‘new normal.’ “For the former things have passed away, behold I make all things new.”
As I speak to other seniors, a surprising number have appreciated this enforced restriction imposed on us all. It has been a time of quiet; less busyness and pressure, fewer interruptions, more time to read, contemplate and spend time with God. We’re turning from ‘Martha’ into ‘Mary’ (Luke 11 v 39-42) We seem to have listened to our bodies, rested more and eaten more sensibly. Most of us began with a busy programme of being productive, cleaning, sorting and reducing clutter to simplify our home lives. As the lock-down continued, the seniors, (who have previously been busy with grandparent duties, voluntary work and keeping brains gainfully occupied) have allowed themselves to slow down. One friend described her days thus : I slowed down and the drive to be ‘doing’ disappeared. I started reading in the middle of the day, napping in the sun, pottering, baking for fun. Eating and sleeping when I felt like it, bingeing on a good book or movie at odd hours. Communicating with others when it suited us both.”
We older people who have been “cumbered about with much serving” of others, have marked Jesus’ gentle admonition; “ Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. Mary has chosen the good thing, which shall not be taken away from her.” Mary preferred to sit at Jesus feet, and learn of Him, rather than rush around serving him. There is a time and place for everything, it’s a re-organising of priorities.
Another older friend has spent her time knitting, a skill that has become more difficult with health challenges. She’s not able to make up fancy patterns, but she’s making lots of beanies. She’s handing them out to children who had nothing warm to cover their heads “because God cares for them.”
Her generosity reminds me of my dear grandmother who spent her last years slowly, painfully knitting tiny baby garments. I remember her gnarled old arthritic hands slowly contorting to make each stitch. She would be hunched over her work, peering through rheumy eyes at the blur of wool coming together. As she finished each tiny garment, it was wrapped in tissue paper and set aside in a box. Every Christmas we took Nanna for her big outing, to the Cathedral; where she laid her box at the foot of the charity Christmas tree. It was the ‘Widows mite.’ How many needy babies were comforted by her hundreds hours of work we’ll never know. What I’m certain of is that her devotion to honour God and care for those with desperate needs was a lasting impression on me. It has helped me to re-prioritise what is important in life. Thank you Nanna for the example you set 70 years ago.
Today is Nurses Day, and indeed, this is The International Year of Nurses and Midwives. How timely that we can single these professionals out for special gratitude and praise; they have toiled and sacrificed to keep our health services running during this epidemic. Much of their work involves close contact with patients and clients, so they have been on the Covid front line which is the most risky place. A number of them have become infected with Coronavirus. I am most grateful for the caring nurses in our eventide homes. There are many confused and disabled people who can’t understand why they are enclosed and unable to be close to their loved ones; especially those who are near the end of their lives, and under palliative care. Our fine ‘Florence Nightingales’ have managed Zoom and Skype sessions to enable distressed patients to communicate with their anxious families. Some nurses have chosen to isolate themselves from their own family bubbles to protect their loved ones while they continue to serve their patients. Their dedication and generosity is a blessing to us all. May they be respected and remunerated appropriately as we begin to increase our bubble sizes. Such palliative care staff are earning 10 per cent less pay than their DHB colleagues. We encourage those handling budgets and wage subsidies to acknowledge the carers and nurses and show our gratitude for their continuing faithful service.
“Inasmuch as you do these deeds for the least of my people, you do it unto me.”
Happy bubble blowing!