My dear husband has been doing the grocery shopping since the coronavirus pandemic began but a recent injury during a run has left him unable to walk comfortably, much less shop. In an effort to restock our fridge with fresh vegetables and fruit, I suited up in mask and gloves and ventured out early one morning. When I initially approached the grocery store, I let out a sigh of relief thinking that the line was not too bad. My husband had warned me saying, “They only allow 100 people in at a time so you may have to wait.” It was only when I parked the car and walked up to the cue that I realized the line snaked around the corner of the store, going way back past a number of other stores in the complex. “Yikes!” I said out loud, while begrudgingly taking my place behind an older gentlemen. I then succumbed to the enticements of social media while I waited my turn to enter the store.
Once inside the store, my sore back let me know that it had been standing for far too long. I tried to ignore it but these things don’t go away without some special attention. “No time for that right now,” I thought. After 45 minutes, and several text requests from my daughter later, I was content with my cartload of goods. It was eerie though – the whole experience. Folks passed by one another silently, unwilling to gaze up from their predetermined routes. Obviously I could see no smiles or happy faces through the masks. It was all business, even to the point where a woman refused to acknowledge me in an aisle and simply stared at the ground until I moved my cart. I actually missed the days when little kids cheerfully tugged at their mom’s coats asking for a treat of some kind. Not today – the store felt like a silent tomb.
As I drove home I could not stop thinking about my shopping excursion. I have not been in the stores for about a month so this was a jarring experience. I decided to turn on the radio to clear my mind and tuned into an NPR show where they were interviewing Asian Americans who had been mistreated during the pandemic due to their ethnicity. Needless to say I was feeling even worse after hearing this terrible news and wondered how things had become so dark and out of control. It’s amazing how I had become immune to the struggles and pains of the outside world from just a few weeks of quarantine in my home.
I thought about how different this day had been from just a few days ago when we celebrated new life in the risen Christ. Easter reminds us that God made us to be fully alive – NOT to live in a depressed or judgmental state. When our Lord climbed up on the cross on Calvary, he did so because of his unconditional love for ALL people. So in the face of this pandemic, I think we need to remember that love is the order of the day. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross should encourage us to love our neighbor– no matter their skin color or ethic background. It should inspire us to smile at strangers and friends, including random people in grocery stores. Our Lord’s sacrificial love should rouse us to action, especially now when we may help lessen the burden of folks who have been negatively affected by this pandemic. Most of all, we are called to live in gratitude to our loving God for the gift of his beloved son who gave his very life out of love for each one of us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Late afternoon walks with my dog are always a good way to unwind and pray after a stressful day. I left home with my rosary, intending to pray silently for all the people I had encountered or heard about on this sad day. To my amazement, my day concluded in the exact opposite way that it began. Along my walking route I observed joyful children playing happily in their yards. I noticed siblings shooting baskets in one driveway while pop music played in the background. In another yard, I saw children cheerfully climbing and swinging on a play set. At a third home, an Amazon driver clad in mask and gloves was respectfully greeted by a boy playing ball in the yard. All of these encounters brought me back to the way life used to be, before this pandemic. Have you ever noticed that children have a way of reminding us what is best in life? They have no preconceived prejudices and will welcome a friend of any color or background. Children are resilient and get back up after they are knocked down. When times were difficult with so many young kids in our family at the same time, my incredible mom used to say, “children have a way of offering genuine, unconditional love, which always makes a situation better. Be grateful for the kids!” She treasured every moment she spent with her grandkids, nieces and nephews – they brought light to her life and joy to her days.
As the sun set on another interesting quarantine day, my heart felt full again. I was thankful for the reminder that God is always close and can be seen in simple things, like a blooming spring flower or the joyful play of a child. Then I thought about my beautiful mom, and her generous heart – she’d agree that love is the order of the day and never “out of stock.” We must offer love freely and generously every day – especially during difficult moments in life. So, I resolved that the next time I venture out to the grocery store, I’m going to bring a little more love with me – the type of love that I received from mom. I can only hope that it – rather than this virus – will be contagious.