A Year…: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
This March will mark a year that the vast majority of us have had our lives upended by Covid-19. On March 11, 2020, the WHO officially designated the virus out break as a pandemic. Two days later, the US declared that the novel coronavirus constituted a national emergency. Few Americans imagined that within the space of a year over half a million lives would be lost in our country alone.
To be honest, few of us fully realized the length and severity of the pandemic. I will leave it to others to opine on the steps and missteps taken in response to the virus. There is likely much that could be said of both categories. Regardless of government action and/or inaction most of us, early on, did not fully recognize the scope and severity of what we were facing. For instance, I had booked tickets for my annual trip to Paris in October. It took me until April to cancel as we moved into lockdown.
At first, lockdown was a challenge. I emptied my closet and reorganized my clothes, making repairs and sewing on buttons. I painted the master bedroom and a hallway, hanging art to create a small gallery. I spent two weeks reorganizing my library, all the while searching the house for yet other projects to undertake. We began to establish new patterns. My wife, now working from home, took the office on the second floor while I had the office in the basement. We went our separate ways after breakfast and met up again at 6:00 in the evening for cocktails and the evening call to my mother. Zoom calls, once exotic, now became the norm for everything from business calls to weight training.
Trips to the grocery store took on the nature of a military styled operation as did visits to hardware stores for supplies. Masks and hand sanitizer equipped us for the battle against an unseen enemy. Meanwhile, week by week and month by month, we heard of friends, acquaintances and family members who had contracted the virus. Most, thank God, recovered but some died, tragically and alone.
I have missed going to church in person. That being said, Morning and Evening Prayer have taken on even greater importance in my life. While I have said the Offices for some forty years, this last year has made me more keenly aware that this is not something “I” do… it is something “we” do. As I pray, I feel much more aware that others are praying with me.
The list of those for whom I pray has lengthened. The list has also become much more diverse. Looking at the list as I write this, I see the names of a number of clergy and religious, both in the US and the UK, along with a few academics. I also see, however, the name of Elizabeth, a nurse. At some point I added the name of our GP. Looking yet further, I see the names of a number of musicians. There’s Owen and Thom; Michael and Wayne, and a host of others. There are also a few artists, like my friend, Satch. There are even some names that I only know from discussions on social media and blog sites and, of course, family.
Clergy, academics, care-givers, musicians, artists, friends, family… It makes me wonder if who we pray for is the truest reflection of our individual worlds, especially when those worlds are constrained and, supposedly, made smaller as a result of what we have all experienced this last year. I can’t speak for others, but it seems to be the case for me and the world I inhabit. I would guess that this is also the case for others as well.
I’m scheduled for the vaccine a week from today. It feels as though there might be light at the end of the tunnel. For all of our sakes, I hope that is the case. When something resembling “normalcy” returns, we will all carry memories, good and bad, of the time we have passed through along with questions of why and what could have been done differently. I hope, however, that we carry something more with us into that “new normal”. This pandemic has taught us in new ways about prayer, love, patience, generosity, courage and fellowship. If we carry those qualities forward, the new normal could be better than the old, even if it is only within our own worlds.