Category Archives: Coping

The Resilience of Hope

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, I put a table with colored chalk and hand sanitizer near my front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please draw a picture or message of hope. Please use sanitizer before and after. Stay safe. Stay well.”

Almost instantly, people began drawing and writing. When rain washed away the chalk, they drew new pictures. Week by week the pattern continues: hope drawn, hope gone, hope drawn. The resilience of hope visible on my sidewalk.

When I first set out the chalk, I had no idea what would happen. Would we become the crazy people with chalk in front of their house? Would anyone draw? Would it matter? Like priming the pump at a fundraiser, I drew a smiley face to get things started, then took my dogs for a walk.

By the time I returned, there were pictures on the sidewalk. Within days, there were rainbows, flowers, stars, a car and a unicorn. There have been trucks, cats, dogs, houses, families, and smiley faces–even one wearing a mask. Today there are fireworks, pets, mountains, and flowers on my sidewalk.

I was moved by what people drew that first week. I was awed. I still am.

Some people draw, others write messages: Believe hope will come. We will get through this. Love, Peace, Hope. Be Kind. Wash your hands. Thanks for letting us draw. Together.

My sidewalk makes people smile in an otherwise grim time.

People have been leaving messages and drawing pictures ever since. Some people pause to look at the drawings and smile as they continue walking. Parents have said my sidewalk is their child’s favorite part of their daily walk. Teens have shown me which pictures they drew and messages they wrote. Adults have thanked me for giving them a place to share. The sidewalk project has helped build a sense of community that counters our isolation. When I need a lift, I walk out to my sidewalk and feel hopeful that we will make it through.

As the weeks pass and the world around us changes, so, too, have the messages changed. They began with “Stay safe; Wash your hands; Love, Joy, Hope; Hope will come.” After the killing of George Floyd, they’ve included “Black Lives Matter,” and “This Sidewalk Is a Blessing.” June arrived and “Happy Pride Month” appeared. This weekend, someone wrote “Just Mask Up or Stay Home” in beautiful colors. Always, there are messages of “Be kind; It will be OK; We’ll get through this.”

Today the sidewalk art includes green mountains beneath a blue sky and yellow sun, “Black Lives Matter, Just Mask Up or Stay Home,” a house, fireworks, a dog saying “Woof,” and flowers. When my own green shoots of hope wilt in the face of the day’s news, I stand at my sidewalk and feel hopeful.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” says Mother Teresa. I can’t do great things to change the world, but I can do small things with love. One of those small things is to set out chalk and sanitizer and create a canvas for people to share dreams, resilience, and hope with others.

Even when it’s washed away, hope is resilient. Breathe it in: We will make it through.

No Greater Love

Despite the coronavirus, blue skies, cherry blossoms, and bright daffodils have come to Seattle and I want to be outside with them. I’m tired of my house and of seeing no one but my husband. I love him, but seven weeks of Safe at Home is boring.

Recently, I was so thrilled to have a steering wheel in my hands and an accelerator under my foot as I drove to the pharmacy that I wanted to drive for hours. But, no. I went straight home afterward.

At the same time, I feel comfort and solidarity in knowing that we’re all suffering through this isolation together.

Except that we’re not. Some states carry on as if the coronavirus is no more dangerous than car accidents and seasonal flu. Even in areas with stay-at-home orders, millions of people disregard them. Come on, folks. Millions of people around the world are staying home and sacrificing their income and businesses to save your life. Please return the favor by staying home and saving their life, too. Stay home to make the sacrifices of people who’ve lost their jobs worthwhile.

Grocery cashier wearing mask

Stay home to save the lives of people doing work on which all of us depend: first responders and medical workers, custodians and delivery people, cashiers and shelf stockers, drive-up window employees and cooks, warehouse employees and garbage collectors, transit workers, food bank volunteers, and telephone help lines. If you reduce the spread of the coronavirus in your area by staying home, you make their world safer.

We can do this. We can come together as one community–locally, nationally, globally. The coronavirus gives us an opportunity to remember that social solidarity is part of being human. As David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times,

Social solidarity is an active commitment, not merely a feeling of connection but an “active virtue.” Solidarity recognizes both the inherent worth and dignity of each person and the way we are “embedded in webs of mutual obligation — to one another and to all creation. It celebrates the individual and the whole together.”

. . . It is out of solidarity, and not normal utilitarian logic, that George Marshall in “Saving Private Ryan” endangered a dozen lives to save just one. It’s solidarity that causes a Marine to risk his life dragging the body of his dead comrade from battle to be returned home. It’s out of solidarity that health care workers stay on their feet amid terror and fatigue. Some things you do not for yourself or another but for the common whole.

Screw This Virus!, David Brooks, New York Times, March 19, 2020 see here
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Solidarity is why we stay home even if we feel healthy or invincible or have cabin fever, for we know we might unwittingly pass the virus to others. It’s why we stay six feet apart, hoping that by so doing, we’ll lessen the burden on first responders and medical staff. Solidarity is why we don’t hoard food and supplies but leave plenty for others.

Last Supper of Jesus with Brazilian streetchildren as by Joey Velasco, artist
Last Supper with the Street Children, Joey Velasco, artist

Holy Week seems an appropriate time to write about love and sacrifice, life and death, despair and hope–the themes of life in the coronavirus pandemic. I began this post on Maundy Thursday, the day on the Christian calendar when we believe Jesus said to his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Laying down our life for others is what we do when we stay “safe at home.” When our jobs and business are sacrificed for the “greater good.” When we risk our life in essential jobs, both seen and unseen. When we set aside our work to care for and teach our children at home. When we stay away from church, synagogue, mosque, and temple and postpone weddings and funerals to a safer time. Jesus, who laid down his life for humanity, calls on us now to sacrifice in ways we could not have imagined before coronavirus crashed over us.

On Holy Saturday I returned to writing. This is the day between Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday is a day of darkness and despair when Christians keep vigil until Sunday’s dawn. In this space we contemplate our complicity in Jesus’ continuing crucifixion, praying for God’s forgiveness and for a glimmer of hope. Between the crucifixion and resurrection, we, like Jesus’ first disciples, cry out for answers into an echoing silence. We long to know that Life is greater than Death and Good more powerful than Evil. We long for suffering to be redeemed.

That’s what we hope for, too, as we see refrigerator trucks outside hospitals and cars lined up for miles at food banks and unemployment offices. We cry out for answers as nurses and doctors plead for masks and medicine. We long for hope as the death toll climbs and we grieve both those who have died and those yet to succumb. We keep active vigil until Easter dawn.

Abstract light rays from a bright center.

And now, it is Easter. Christ is risen! Life has overcome death. Good has won and will win the day, somehow, some way, even if we only see glimmers of it now: A violinist serenading an emergency room; a loved one recovering from the virus; a child drawing a rainbow on a sidewalk; a whisper thanks for family and friends, for daffodils, and birds singing. God is not silent but speaking through officials who order social distance and quarantines and nurses who tell the dying they are not alone. God’s love touches us virtually in people who reach out by phone and internet. Love, not death, has the final word.

On this Easter day tombs of despair roll open and hope returns in smiled greetings from six feet away, music played from separate balconies, clapping hands at 7:00 P.M., and DIY masks that tell us someone cares. A new day will dawn fully, eventually. We trust that promise–that suffering will be redeemed–because we have already seen glimmers of light among us.

Yes, Safe at Home is boring and hard. Sacrifice and sorrow are real. Yes, we are in this together, all of us, for we are all God’s children. And yes, if you look carefully you can see glimmers of dawn among us, the light that will fully dawn, some day. Christ is risen.

My front porch with dog looking out the window and rocking chair

Coronavirus Self-Quarantine: How to Stay Sane

Hello from the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus: Bothell/Kirkland/Seattle. While many people here are working 24/7 to deal with the unfolding consequences of the coronavirus, life has slowed to a crawl for those of us under self-quarantine. As someone “at high risk,” I have been under self-quarantine for six days and already have cabin fever.

In just the first week, Washington State has recorded 19 deaths from coronavirus, schools serving nearly 30,000 are closed, universities have moved classes on-line, county executives have directed everyone who can do so to work from home, businesses are laying off employees for lack of work, and the coronavirus virus is popping up in new communities every day. Friday afternoon rush hour in Seattle looked like 9:00 A.M. on a Saturday instead.

As the U.S. epicenter for coronavirus, we’re a few days ahead of the rest of the country in developing a community-wide response. Here’s some of what we’ve learned so far about dealing with the coronavirus.

Healthy people who come into contact with the virus can shed it as they go about their day–shaking hands and touching tabletops, keyboards, and card readers. They probably don’t know they are carriers of the virus. This is how it is spreading so quickly in communities and around the world. It is also why people at high risk of dying from the coronavirus must self-quarantine and people around them must be extra careful.

If you can’t find a hand-sanitizer to buy, make your own with these recipes. Keep hand sanitizers in your vehicle, handbag, and pack, Use them at the grocery, every time you use a keypad, pump gas, or exchange currency. Don’t shake hands or fist bump. Elbow bumping is safer. Open doors with your elbow or hip, if possible.

Work from home if you can. Get ready for quarantine–either mandated or self-quarantine. See below for tips.

People at higher risk of severe illness must stay home completely because the health consequences for us are severe. If you’re in a high risk group, the virus is hard to treat and deadly. Do not go into public spaces or touch surfaces that members of the public may have touched. Stay away from places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others, including concert venues, conventions, sporting events, religious services, and crowded social gatherings.

People at higher risk include Those:

  • Over 60 years of age
  • With underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
  • With weakened immune systems
  • Who are pregnant

Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at risk for novel coronavirus should consult with their healthcare providers.

If family members or close friends are at high-risk, read this article about steps you can take to keep them safe.

Where to Find Information

Read updates and follow the recommendations of public health officials, doctors, and scientists such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) and local and state officials. Many of President Donald Trump’s current comments about the coronavirus are misleading, untrustworthy, and even untrue. This is not a matter of whether one likes the President or not, it is a matter of keeping yourself, loved ones, and your community safe. As one on the ground at the epicenter, I have found the following sources accurate and trustworthy regarding the coronavirus: the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Seattle Times, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, King County Public Health and Snohomish County Public Health.

How To Stay Healthy and Sane During Self-Quarantine

Stay calm. There is no need to panic. Check coronavirus updates no more than hourly for peace of mind. Think of what you can control and then do it. Here are some possibilities.

Soap on soap dish1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Time yourself by counting to 20 slowly, sing the Happy Birthday song twice, or the Alphabet Song once. Have other members of your household do so, as well. Use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.

2. Clean all surfaces that people may have touched or where they may have rested their hands, Clean them frequently in case the virus migrated there from a purse, toys, keys, or grocery bags.

3. Make sure you have 14 days of food available. Stock up on frozen vegetables and non-perishable foods. Buy snacks. See here for what to stock in your pantry for quarantine.

4. Buy enough pet food for 14 days. If you have dogs, get extra bones and treats to help manage their cabin fever and yours.

5. Make soups, stews, and pasta sauces. Freeze them in quart-sized containers.

6. Design a walking route inside your house and walk it several times each day. Or walk outside without touching anything that anyone else might touch. Do a few lunges, squats, and donkey kicks every day. Do stretching exercises. Movement counteracts depression and keeps the body limber.

7. Do projects for which you don’t have to go to the store. Clean the garage, spice cupboard or pantry. Sort through a closet or throw away old magazines. Do a woodworking or craft project you’ve put off. Detail your car. You’ll feel productive during the quarantine and pleased about what you accomplished.

8. Stream movies and T.V. shows. If you don’t have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, you can get a 7-day free trial and cancel it at the end of the week. Try watching Cheers on Netflix and Hunters on Amazon for laughs and tension, respectively.

9. Get a library card and borrow e-books from home. Libraries have their catalogs available online. Read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and News of the World by Paulette Giles to be transported to a different world.

Flower garden in bloom10. Work in your yard or garden.  Fresh air, trees, sunshine, and gardening help create calm and relieve depression.

11. Watch online classes on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) or YouTube. Blueprint has low-cost cooking, decorating, sewing, woodworking, gardening, knitting, and exercise classes taught by well-known instructors. After foot surgery last year, I passed many an hour learning how to use a table saw, refine my sewing techniques, bake flaky pie crusts and make awesome pizza.

12. Call friends and family to stay in touch. Call people who are under self-quarantine. Skype and FaceTime for face-to-face contact. Go for a drive but don’t get out of your car.

If you are high risk, don’t go out in public, ever, until the coronavirus until you have medical clearance. Thinking you won’t be infected or infect anyone else if you do it just once is like thinking you can have sex once without protection and not get pregnant. You might get lucky, but you might not. Don’t risk it. Ever.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay sane.