Big Problem, Little Thoughts

Today is the beginning of week four living in a global flu pandemic. Like all of us, my daily life has changed, but unlike most of you, it hasn’t changed very much. I already work from home. We don’t have to keep children educated and occupied. NB works in an “essential” industry. The biggest difference for us will be delaying any more trips back to Colorado to visit our home and family. So I realize the level of impact has been relatively small for us and write my words cautiously, knowing that the place I inhabit in relation to this situation is significantly different than most. That said, here’s a few things that keep surfacing for me.


A couple of weeks ago, the company I work for–like most–cancelled any non-essential travel. At the same time the travel industry starting making headlines with cancelled flights, hotel closures, and furloughed employees. Profit turned to loss in less than 2 weeks for billion dollar industries when people began to do what was only essential. What does it say about us when so much of our lives is built around what is non-essential?

Spoiled Rotten. For me, I realized how truly spoiled we are. To be stripped down to merely “essential” activities should inspire gratitude for what we have been given. I realize how much earlier generations or those in other parts of the world spend the entirety of their lives with only the essentials, if that. I might not be Veruca Salt, but my frustration of having to wait 5 days to get bananas seems awfully petty, especially when I think about the ration cards my grandparents used during World War II.

True essentials. As a broadcaster this morning said, “I didn’t realize that truck drivers are essential workers.” There will be a lot of revelation of what we take for granted. Even though NB & I have spend a lot of time “roughing-it,” I still don’t think I will look at a roll of toilet paper quite the same again. I’m grateful that our government leaders have declared that houses of worship are essential so that our spiritual leaders can direct our worship virtually, if not in person. Living a life a little more stripped down has helped me see what is truly essential.

Discovering new essentials. I’ve been heartened by the way that people are spending more time outdoors. Without the crush of organized schedules, I see families taking walks together in numbers I have never seen before. Maybe more folks will learn to find time outdoors as essential for their lives.

This season is spurring new essentials in my own life. Creating a consistent daily routine and exercise, daily lunch with my husband, the morning mercies in a sunrise, a patch of sunlight on the floor, these have all found a new essential place in my life. Turning my thoughts out of myself and situation into the broader space of my home, family, community, and world engenders gratitude. And gratitude is the defense against a spoiled soul.

The root of essential is essence. What is the essence of our lives? That is what we have the opportunity to discover in these strange days.

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