I’m sitting here eating Blue Bell ice cream out of the container and fretting because I can’t go to the gym. Don’t judge me; you’ve probably done the same.
I do feel some comfort tonight, however, because now nobody can go to the gym – which means I’m not alone or being singled out anymore. Our city and county just announced a decree that in order to contain the novel coronavirus all restaurants, bars, clubs and gyms must close.
My plan after leading a group of church friends on a recent two-week trip to Spain and Portugal was to hit the gym hard – which I likely would have done in earnest because I’m wired that way – and to get to my hot yoga class as many days as possible each week. Oh, and to eat better after having gorged in Europe on croissants and pastries for breakfast every day and capping each night off with gelato. I had big plans for wellness.
“Surely there are many lessons we’ll all learn [including] how the viruses of poverty and privilege, disenfranchisement and deal-making are just a handshake away from any of us.”
Then the day we flew back to Dallas, the world went into a tailspin and we barely got out of Barcelona before they shut things down and barely got back into the United States before they made it harder to re-enter. And while I should be grateful to be home safely, I’ve also been mad because I’ve been forced to stay at home in case I unwittingly contracted COVID-19 on our trip.
Mad because I can’t go to the gym. Mad because I can’t go to my beloved yoga class. Mad because I can’t go anywhere. Mad because other people who feel like they have freedom to roam about can so easily demand that I not do so.
So yes, there’s a bit of joy in my heart tonight that all the restaurants and gyms have been shut down. Now it’s not just about me. Perverse thinking, I’ll admit. But it’s an honest report. If I’m having to miss out, at least other people are missing out too. Misery loves company, don’t you know.
Having written these confessional words – and now that the ice cream container sits empty beside me with the big spoon still in it – I see something in myself that I don’t like in other people. Although I’m not quite ready to repent of it, I see that I’ve become one of those people who sees the world only through what suits me and my wants. (And yes, I just hid the empty ice cream container behind my laptop screen so my wife won’t see it when she walks by.)
If you’ve followed my commentary over the years, you know already that I often rail against such people. I’m prone to quote the Golden Rule about doing to others as you would have them do to you. And I’m prone to write about the greater good, the common good, the need to sacrifice for those who have less than we do. That’s the Jesus way, after all.
But darn it, Jesus would want to get out of the house and go to the gym, right?
Now that I’ve been caught by Alison, who was not fooled by the half-gallon container hiding in the shadow of the laptop, I can see more clearly. I am they, and they are me.
Surely there are many lessons we’ll all learn through this COVID-19 crisis (couldn’t we please come up with a clearer name, though?). Not only will we learn about the need for better handwashing, but perhaps we’ll learn more about how connected we all are. And how the viruses of poverty and privilege, disenfranchisement and deal-making are just a handshake away from any of us.
We may think protecting our own stock market investments is the most important thing, but it is not. Jesus taught us that: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” We may think winning the so-called “culture wars” is the most important thing, but it is not. Jesus taught us that when he asked the Samaritan woman at the well for a cup of water. We may think caring only about whether we have access to health care is the most important thing, but it is not. Jesus taught us that when he waited three days to visit his friend Lazarus who was dying.
If nothing else, maybe we who survive this coronavirus madness can come around to see how important it is to pray for the welfare of our cities and communities, and not just for a few inhabitants who likely are more like than unlike us. As it turns out, we’re all more closely connected than we like to admit.
And it’s harder than ever to hide our gluttonous empty buckets of ice cream.
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