These have been strange, funky, unprecedented, pick your own adjective and go crazy kind of times. In the beginning, I kept saying, “this is just weird.” And honestly, this past month has been way more than weird. It’s been unlike any other. It’s been tough and at the same time filled with some of the most beautiful moments imaginable. I have simultaneously felt deep gratitude for this time as well as paralyzing anxiety about what’s going on around me and how it’s negatively impacting so many. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions. Has it been the same for you? I feel like I’m living in this increasingly difficult space of feeling like I’m overreacting while simultaneously not reacting enough.
As communities, we are talking about how to move forward. When can we get back to life as it was before? You hear different ideas on the news and through any type of media on when it is safe to return back to work, to restaurants, to the salon, to the beaches. Opinions that range from we’ll open it all up today, to life will never be like what it was before. The reality is, this is unlike anything any of us have ever experienced, unlike anything the world has experienced, so there’s a lot we really don’t know. I like to think that everyone is just trying to do their best, but sometimes that is hard. What’s the right thing to do and when? And is there life as we knew it before or will it be forever different?
Ok, so I’m going to completely side step for a minute, but bear with me, I’ll come back. When I was pregnant with Romney Ann, it was sooooooo irritating how often Brandon would know more about what my body was going through and the details of being pregnant because of what was true for the animals on our farm. I don’t know about you, but when I was 7, 8, and 9 months pregnant, being compared to farm animals was not high on my list of feel goods. But, the reality is, he was more times than not correct – ugh! And honestly it was just another realization that we humans can all learn a lot from creation and life on a farm.
Now, back to COVID-19. When this was first starting to be covered by news cycles here in the US, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I wasn’t likely one who would be bothered by the virus. I’m young and have no underlying conditions. All I was hearing was that it was like a bad cold or maybe the flu – both things we deal with each and every year, so again, what’s the big deal? When I decided to get off my high horse and start listening to what those who are way smarter than I am were saying, I started to quickly realize, this wasn’t about me, not even a little. I realized that even though I may not be personally worried about contracting this virus, it is my duty to stay home to both prevent the spread to others who may be part of a more vulnerable population AND to help “flatten the curve” and give those in the hospitals a chance at tackling this as best they can. This whole idea of quarantine and isolation is about caring for those around me, no matter what, no questions asked. Caring for both the neighbor I know and the one I don’t, the coworker I like and the one that gets on me nerves, for the newest member of my family as well as the matriarch. It doesn’t matter who it is, our duty to be safe and listen to the measures put in place was to keep all of our brothers and sisters as safe as possible. This position of protection, of immense love shown for those around us no matter what, is deeply a part of our life as people of faith and this has been a wonderful opportunity for us to live out our faith. This love for our neighbor, with no questions asked, has also made me think of our farm. I hope you don’t mind being compared to a farm animal, because it’s about to happen.
On our farm, that example of unwavering love with no questions asked is Chief. Chief, our livestock guardian dog, protects all the animals on our farm – those bigger than him, our cows and pigs, and those smaller than him, the rabbits, chickens, sheep, and goats. He doesn’t ask questions. It’s his job. As part of the community of the farm, he cares for everyone. He cares for the injured animals and those orphaned by their mom. He cared the same for our only goat as well as our herd of sheep. He protects the mommas on our farm when they’re having their babies and are incredibly vulnerable to predators, as well as the big macho bulls. This past winter, we have 4 bottle babies in a separate pen near our house. They were by themselves with no adult sheep around. Most mornings we would wake up to Chief sleeping outside their pen. No matter the size, no matter the circumstances of the animal, no matter anything – Chief is there.
Again, please don’t be offended like I was when I was pregnant to be compared to a farm animal, because, well, I’m really not comparing us to Chief, I’m actually saying we all need to be more like Chief. We need to see it as being part of community to care for one another. We need to put all of our questions and doubts and worries of overreacting or not reacting enough aside, and just simply care for our neighbor. Sometimes that caring for our neighbor looks like staying home just a little longer than we’d like. It may mean one more unbearable zoom meeting where people won’t mute their mic. It may mean one more month of schooling from home and trying to conquer common core math. These aren’t easy things, but they may be what is needed to keep those around us safe, those we love and even those we have never met. It may be what is needed to be a little more like Chief to do what needs to be done to protect those around us.
But this position of protection doesn’t stop when this is all over, when we can go back to work, rebook our missed vacation, and go back to “life as it was before.” Chief doesn’t quit once the sun comes up. He never goes off shift. Chief is always on. And we too are always called to care for our neighbors. I kind of hope that we never go back to “life as it was before.” I hope we are forever changed to look to the needs of those around us before our own comfort. I hope we’re moved to live a life of caring for our neighbor, the one next door as well as our homeless brother and sister we meet on the street. We are in this thing called life together ALWAYS, not just during a pandemic. May we all have a little bit of Chief in us today and everyday.