It was a new experience as far as church goes, but it was a meaningful time of connectedness and encouragement in the midst of a very stressful time.
These are strange days indeed. On the one hand, I am highly encouraged by the remarkable and thorough effort that Governor Abbott is leading, marshaling the capabilities of the entire span of state agencies, coordinating their efforts and staying ahead of the curve. Members of the House are working hard to keep their constituents informed as well as staying connected with their county judges and other relevant players in the crisis preparation universe.
As our own family has adjusted to this “new normal” of social distancing, we’ve had to moderate our own instincts to compete for resources. Something about the sight of empty store shelves on social media or in person ramps up the anxiety, so we’ve had to take our own deep breaths, be reasonable and trust HEB to handle business like they always do.
The challenges of this new normal are disruptive but entirely necessary. We are part of a legion of Texas parents who are trying to figure out how to keep their children engaged at home while schools remain necessarily closed. A lot of high school athletes are disappointed at the postponement of their seasons. Churchgoers are working to adapt to worshipping online. Adjustments are being made everywhere, but they are being done for the right reason.
Hopefully you are aware of the concept of “flattening the curve.” Without getting too complex, expanding populations tend to follow a bell curve. The current number of documented infections in Texas is still in double figures, largely attributable to the other known contributing factors: mostly international travel or encounters with people who have traveled. However, experts predict that at some point, “community” infections will happen where the disease is spread from person to person at work, at school, etc.. When the number of infections begin to multiply, and the number of people who need hospitalization increases, there is an eventual state where the number of hospitalizations might exceed the number of available beds and caregivers and facilities. On a graph, that looks like a very steep curve.
We can help flatten it by practicing social distancing. Certainly, you may be frustrated by losing the chance to watch the March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament or disappointed at the cancellation of concerts or your kids’ sporting events, but the tradeoff isn’t worth it. Taken together, these small sacrifices can combine to overpower the potential growth of the disease. In a word, we have a responsibility to pull back on life until that curve bends back downward and the spread of the virus is controlled.
And so, our family, most likely like your family, has started to withdraw within the four walls of our house. This morning is an example where we had a family church time together, giving our boys a chance to talk about their fears and remind them that God cares about them and is sovereign regardless of whatever circumstances we might see.
At this point, people everywhere, have an opportunity to set their own attitude as it pertains to social distancing. On the one hand, we can view our empty social calendars as a disappointment and our houses as prisons, or we can be thankful for an opportunity to slow down, take a breath and reconnect with those around us.
Sure, binge-watching Netflix and obsessively checking Facebook can kill countless number of hours, but is killing time really what life is supposed to be about? I would encourage you to think of the community pull that made people go online for church this morning. If you need to use technology for connectedness, maybe use it to FaceTime Grandma and Grandpa, or check in on friends you haven’t heard from in a while, especially those folks you know are going through this alone.
When you’re at home, contemplate the unheard of choice of turning off the TV, silencing your phone then turning toward the ones you love, look them in the eye and begin the process of reconnecting. Something as simple as playing Go Fish with your kids or pulling out a board game could create some wonderful family memories. (Of course, in the Bonnen household, Kim long ago banned Monopoly because I can be a little difficult when it comes to negotiating property swaps and sales.)
Like every crisis that our state and nation has ever faced, we will get through this. We will do it when we acknowledge our individual responsibility to practice social distancing and hand-washing to reduce the spread of the virus and flatten the curve. We will do it when we moderate our outside activities and unclench our fist from that second giant bundle of toilet paper and think more of others. We will do it when we realize that, right now, the most loving thing we can do is NOT see people in person. We will do it when we take the long view of things and do our part to help humanity. As a Texan, I’m confident we will.