Here is a question for you- do you think gratitude and fear can coexist? Can they live in the same mind, spirit, body at the same time? If you would have asked me that question two weeks ago, I think my answer might have been different. But today, my answer is yes.
I know this to be true because I am living it right now, right in the chair where I sit. I am grateful, so incredibly grateful, for my health. For the fact that, in a few minutes, it will be time for me to start work and I get to do it in the comfort and safety of my own home, while my daughter sleeps peacefully in the other room. You have no idea what a blessing that routine and normalcy is for me today! I am grateful for the food in my fridge. And for the first time in my life, I have a true sense of gratitude for the people who are keeping our country intact- the nurses, the grocery store employees, the truck drivers, the delivery drivers. I just never gave it much thought before. But today, I am. I am so very grateful for them.
And right beside my gratitude is fear. I am afraid for my parents- my mom, especially, because for whatever reason she just isn’t taking this seriously. I’m afraid for myself and also my daughters, especially the little one who has reactive airways- in other words, asthma when she is sick. Losing all of the things I take for granted, the little luxuries in life like…running to the store, grabbing dinner out, visiting farmer’s market…that is scary, and surreal and weird. The last time I was in the grocery store, I ran through as fast as I could, wanting nothing more than to wash my hands. Counting the days past my last interaction with the world, hoping I don’t start getting a sore throat or a fever. Because it’s just Cam and I in this house, and I need to be able to care for her. This virus is in our community- I think it has been long before we got our first positive test- and I am not ashamed to admit I’m afraid. I think, if you are not a little nervous, you really should be. A little bit of fear, in this case, is healthy.
But from this gratitude and fear, a third thing was born, not just for me but for lots of people all around the world, and this has been the most beautiful part of all. Compassion. Compassion that makes people more generous and giving at once than I have ever seen. We are collecting money for families in need, giving whatever we can wherever it is needed. My sister-in-law started sewing reusable masks yesterday, and I bought a whole bunch from her so that I can give them away. She was making them for free for her family in the medical field, but she’ll need money to buy the stuff and now she’s probably got more orders than she can handle. People are donating blood, fostering animals, checking on neighbors. Giving and giving even when our lives are so precarious.
And how can that be? How is it that two weeks ago, we didn’t have it to give, and suddenly now we do? And I’m sure you gave what you felt you could before, right? I know I did- I gave my donation to the ACLU, to the United Way. I’d throw my extra dollar to St. Jude’s or whatever when I was asked. But suddenly, we are finding ways to dig deeper and give more, right? How is that?
Well, to me it’s pretty clear…when we get a reality check like the one we are getting today, you understand well- it’s people who matter. Our communities matter dearly to us. Our neighbors, our favorite local restaurants, the grocery clerk whose name we never learned- they matter to us. And by extension, their families and lives matter to us. Our protective instinct has been awakened, and though the circumstances are awful, our response is pretty breathtaking. We are remembering how to be a tribe. We are aware that we are a global community- some of us understanding it for the first time ever. What harms our neighbors, whether across the street or across the globe, can harm us as well. We’d do well to remember this when the danger has passed.
And so, as I sit here this morning, a bundle of nerves and love, gratitude, compassion, and fear…I will say to you what I have been saying to everyone lately. I love you all. Please stay safe.