We, in the US, are all now about a month in to this disruption and I am still a mess. There is such an odd sense of time right now and everyone I know is feeling some type of way; an emotional roller coaster on the daily. Maybe you are super productive and maybe you float aimlessly through the day and feel like you are accomplishing nothing, and maybe if you are like me you experience both in the same day. That is OK friends. There is no guidebook as to ‘How to Thrive in a Pandemic’ and I actually don’t think there should be. If I read one more “5 Steps to Crushing Quarantine” post I might puke (although I will acknowledge putting on real pants helps me not to cry ALL day). This is a “Divine Pause” (as Tyler Burns called it) and maybe it is helping us to reevaluate what is actually real and worthy of our attention. It is forcing us to see just how fragile our whole society is, our very bodies are, and how little control we actually have over our day to day lives. The illusion of self determination is broken wide open. And if crying really is stress leaving your body then I am leaking a lot of stress these days.
Thus far I have a few thoughts I cannot shake. First, can we stop pretending this online BS real school because IT IS NOT! I have made peace with the fact that I have to let go of A LOT or I just will not cope right now. The remote learning stuff; bless it all, but it is too much right now- like my brain hurts. It is NOT at all because I do not appreciate the teachers. I say they all deserve to be paid 1 million dollars and NOT HAVE TO WORK AT ALL right now.
They are in FACT super humans who completely taught themselves new platforms and ways of communicating with little people who have ABSOLUTELY no zoom etiquette (they have the patience of saints I tell you). After watching them in action; returning countless emails from inept parents (ahem ME) who cannot find log ins or remember what was written in 1 of 25 emails they received in the last week, doing a drive by parade to show the kids they are loved and missed, and still show up reading a book online or recording videos of how to measure things I say THEY ALL DESERVE ALL THE THINGS. But let’s keep it real: online school for littles is an exercise in frustration. Let’s free up teachers to spend this time checking in on the kids whose safe space place is school. Almost everyday I run past the local school I sub at a lot and I pray for those kids and families because I know them and my heart breaks for how disproportionately hard this is for some of us. Anyone in education knows some kids who are at most risk right now. Let’s call the year and spend our time just building whatever community we can scrape together with online resources. Let’s pray like we mean it. Let’s take creative action to show people they are loved and valued.
Here is what else I know. When most of life feels postponed or cancelled connection REALLY MATTERS. Let’s check in on each other and stop pretending this is business as usual because it is NOT. We will not all magically adjust and thrive in this and let’s not judge or fix that. Helping my kids do the remote learning this week has made me realize while I want them to keep up what they have learned they will just not learn a whole lot new right now. The teachers and educators are doing all they can to help our kids but it is just not the same as school and this is good news. It is precisely because our classrooms are sacred spaces where connection precedes learning. Educators know this. The reality is that many of our kids learn in school because there is a caring and loving adult in the room who invests in them and allows them to open themselves up to new things. They learn from eye contact and connection and being seen. They learn from community and from each other. They learn because there is a rhythm and routine and safety (obviously not for all and we must work to fix this inequality). Education cannot just shift to a web browser.
What can our kids learn right now? A whole lot. They will learn that life is fragile and cannot be taken for granted. They will learn gratitude for their opportunity to go to school. They will learn in a small way the pain of separation from loved ones, friends, and extended family and perhaps have more empathy for those living in that reality all the time. They will learn how to deal with and work through increased family conflict in a stressful time (we a mess). They will learn how to do laundry and cook and help around the house more because pretty soon you will have to light a match to solve this hot mess of a house situation. They will learn creative ways to really be intentional with their friendships. They will learn resilience, patience, the ability to find new things to do when they are “bored.”
I am hopeful they will learn more how big God is and how small we all are and how much prayer matters. My prayer is that we steward this time for them well; that I don’t shelter them from seeing sadness or from processing the range of emotions but help support them in it and that I point them to Jesus.
This is also true; we are in TRAUMA responses right now. Obviously the AMAZING Healthcare professional and essential workers are lifting more than many of us can even fathom. We need to care for them in creative ways and they need support AND the entire country, really world, is experiencing shock, disappointment, hardship, anxiety- in a word TRAUMA. This is especially acute for those who have experienced big T trauma in their lives and we are seeing this in our home. There is Big Grief and little grief in this and if we do not find ways to process and be honest about that we will stuff it only to reappear later. Let’s make room for everyone to process this differently. Let’s listen and offer Lament and Hope. People dying alone is wrecking me everyday but the truth is that people DO DIE alone; in prison, in isolation, with broken family relationships, in addiction, EVERYDAY. Does it break my heart as much as it should? As much as it breaks the heart of Jesus? What action is needed?
Let’s also stop pretending that when this is over life will go back to exactly how it was when this all started. At least I hope it will not because that will fulfill the pattern of America lulling ourselves into apathy with commercialism and believing in the lie that productivity is who we are. On this Good Friday I feel the weight of darkness and my sin in a new way. I am looking at the horizon without certainty of what the future holds. The light after darkness does not erase the darkness but it completely shifts the narrative of hopelessness. It is an invitation to life, to community, to healing. It is an invitation I need desperately right now.