I have pondered most of the day on whether to write this week about something light and funny, or to address the elephant in the room and use this space for some personal thoughts on life in 2020 with COVID-19.
As a freelance journalist who works from my home, I have been able to avoid the day-to-day onslaught that my journalism colleagues have been facing in regular newsrooms. Indeed, things are literally changing hour-to-hour. A friend who works for our governor’s office issued six separate news releases in one day last week, where normally one, maybe two a day are put out. But after spending most of this morning assisting my managing editor wade through local chaos at the weekly newspaper I regularly contribute to, I decided to weigh in with my thoughts on this worldwide pandemic.
With our governor following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines limiting public events and gatherings to 50 people or less, we were flooded with event cancellations, closures and postponements. Ordinarily such a situation would be a nightmare, as with an ever-shrinking paper size we would have no space to print everything. But with nearly all spring sports being canceled, we had ample space. Pages that would have been devoted to track, soccer, tennis and golf stories, are now filled with “C, C & P” news — cancellations, closures and postponements.
I’m sure all of you are dealing with your own dilemmas of how to keep yourself, your loved ones safe and keep fellow citizens safe, while trying to balance hysteria and common sense. I sit on our local theater board and because our building is actually owned by the local school district, we fall under the school umbrella. So when the decision was made to close school indefinitely, we had to close the theater, too. Right now we are to reevaluate the situation on March 31, but in light of the CDC decision on gatherings over 50, it will probably be longer than that.
I feel for our students on all levels, but especially for seniors in high school and college. All those benchmarks of a senior year such a prom, a senior trip and more have been yanked away. Even graduations may fall victim to the ax of social distancing. A friend pointed out that the Class of 2020’s march through life has been marked by significant world events. His son was born one week after 9/11, and now he is having to spend the last weeks of his senior year quasi-quarantined.
I also sit on a national board for a cultural exchange program. We have 12 applicants who have been approved for home stays with our overseas partners in 11 countries. Most of our exchangees will be going to Europe and we have been in regular contact the past two weeks with those countries. As it stands now we, and all but two of our country partners, have adopted a wait-and-see attitude and will reevaluate the world situation in April. Our outbound students don’t leave until mid-June, so we are continuing with their online orientation, but holding off on purchasing their plane tickets.
Then back locally, our church women’s group will be postponing its April community salad luncheon, joining scores of other groups that have put fundraisers and other favorite social events on hold.
Many of those events being canceled normally involve senior citizens. Because they are among the most vulnerable to this virus, according to the experts, it behooves us as good neighbors to do what we can to protect them.
That was a point made clear in a video featuring our synod’s president, shown Sunday at what turned out to be our last regular church service for the next eight weeks. By curtailing our activities and practicing social distancing, we are actually obeying the eighth and ninth commandments (I’m Lutheran, so if you are of another Protestant persuasion, it would be the ninth and 10th commandments). They urge us to be kind to our neighbors and be of service to them. By social distancing, we are keeping exposure to a minimum and hopefully keeping them and their families safe.
While I will certainly miss the in-person fellowship, another point made by both our pastor and the synod president was that the church is not a location or a building. In fact. the Bible never mentions a building called “church.” Rather we are to look inward — that is the heart of the church.
So while there is certainly a huge amount of upheaval all around us, try and make use of these enforced separations to look inward, reflect and enjoy time with family that has perhaps been lacking. Within reason, check on your immediate neighbors, especially senior citizens, who may need help getting groceries or other necessities, but who also are at risk and need to stay away from others.
We weathered a bomb cyclone, blizzards and floods in 2019, we can certainly weather this. See you on the other side, friends!
Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie grew up near Battle Creek, Neb., and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She has written for local, state, regional and international publications and joined the Midwest Messenger crew in 2010. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.