When I started writing about our experience living through the Great Pandemic of 2020, I expected to share our coping skills for everyday life, because even though one size doesn’t fit all families, survival strategies can be scaled to fit any circumstance. Surely everyone navigating such profound changes would appreciate hearing from others who are also making it through tough times.
However, as I started to write about our daily lives, I realized that not much has changed for us, at least superficially. My husband works from home anyway, and we already homeschooled. It would seem that the current social distancing guidelines wouldn’t affect us too drastically. So what has changed for us?
While our daily routines may not have altered much, our thought processes have undergone a profound transformation. Everything feels different because our world is so different. What we’re witnessing and experiencing is an incredible attitude shift on a global scale. The whole world is grieving.
A friend captured this dynamic well when he shared a passage from Ecclesiastes: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting . . . . Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2–4 KJV) These verses held profound significance for him in this time of crisis, as they speak to the value of grief and sorrow.
Pain and sadness run so contrary to our notions of the importance of peace, comfort, and happiness that it’s tempting to wonder: What value can suffering bring? That’s usually my instinctive response to hardship and loss: What’s so great about a house of sorrow?
While we know on a factual level that death is inevitable and that health and wealth are fleeting, we usually operate from an illusion of control and confidence. We don’t often hold these sober truths at the forefront of our minds. This global catastrophe brings us face to face with our mortality and impotence, and causes us to reevaluate our priorities in the light of eternity.
I keep coming back to a sense of contentment as our greatest asset in these uncertain times. We have so much to be thankful for. I haven’t wondered how our family is going to get through this, because being flexible and adaptable and frugal is what we do well. We have provisions to last (we don’t hoard—we just really do stock a family-sized pantry), we are in generally good health, and we are, thankfully, not in immediate danger of experiencing financial hardship. What I have wondered is how our nation is going to come through this, and how we can better alleviate the sufferings of those less fortunate.
I believe that love is the greatest antidote to grief that we can offer. We have always striven to emphasize the importance of helping others, but this crisis has brought out the urgency of the situation like nothing else has. Seeing empty shelves drives home the reality of shortages and the lack of material comforts that many endure.
For a few weeks, my older two daughters were volunteering at the local food bank. Sadly, even this vital community service has had to shut down temporarily, and we have been looking for other ways to serve without exposing anyone to needless risk. We’ve been helping neighbors secure groceries. My mom has started sewing masks from a pattern she found online. Our church put together an online network of service opportunities, from shopping for groceries to sending cards and making calls, and provided a coordination point for needs and volunteers.
So our kids are writing notes and cards, bringing cheer to others even as they work through their own disappointment that all Passover and Easter events were canceled. I thanked my older ones for being supportive, understanding, and encouraging, maintaining a good outlook despite these vexatious circumstances.
My eldest replied, “Well, at least you’re not as bad off as Job. At least a house didn’t fall on me, and you didn’t lose all your camels.”
As Proverbs 14:13 says, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.”
Photo credit: First image, iStock. Following images courtesy of author.