Life is preparing to shut down here in rural Illinois, as it already has in many places in the world. Like many states, restaurants and bars are closing as of 9 pm. The drive-thru gets to stay open. My 16-year-old works at McDonald’s, and they are wearing gloves. My husband pointed out that sure, it keeps her hands safe, but unless they are changing them with each customer that comes through, the germs from the previous person are transferred to the next. We only have one grocery store, a small Wal-Mart. No toilet paper, paper towel, paper plates, hamburger, bread, or soap is to be found. Yesterday, people were cleaning out the beer aisle, not that I blame them. I hope that the older folks who have a hard time getting out or have to rely on someone else to get their supplies for them have what they need.
My girls went to school today so that their computers could get updated, and they could get the rest of their items- books, papers, art supplies…clean it all out like it is the end of the year, that is what they were told. E-learning starts Wednesday. The local college extended Spring Break by two weeks, they hope it is enough. My oldest daughter is one of the marshalls for high school graduation this year. “Mom, we will still have graduation, right?” I answer, “I’m sure there will be graduation at some point this year. We will get through this.” I’m not sure that I believe my own words though. I just hope that if I say them enough, eventually I will.
In our rural community, 75% of our children are on free and reduced lunch. Beginning Wednesday, families can stop at the high-school during the week to pick up a sack lunch, but it is only for the children. What about our older adults, especially the ones that do not drive? What about the ones that depend on Meals on Wheels, although that number is drastically lower than it was a year ago. The government cut funds and many people cannot afford to pay for it.
Most of the churches here refuse to cancel service. People are not going to get sick here. Okay, denial, party of 6,500 confirmed cases, and counting. If we cancel, how are we going to be able to pay the bills? Many churches are no different than the many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. It is scary. We will have to find a new normal when this is over. But until then, we wait, and we wash our hands.
We will get through this. It will be challenging. It will be difficult. We are going to have to do things differently than we have done before, but that’s okay. It is time for us to be the Church. It is time for us to love our neighbors, check on our neighbors, feed our neighbors, spend time with our neighbors. Support the US Postal Service and send cards, especially to folks in nursing homes who cannot receive any visitors right now. Pick up the phone (I know, it’s hard) and call people. Be safe. Do not feed the fears. And please, wash your hands.