Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Yesterday a coworker and I drove 30 minutes across town to a Wal Mart and Kroger that we knew would be well stocked, as opposed to our local ones that were pretty pillaged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were buying the weekly groceries and household supplies for our residential recovery program that currently houses 9 women. We got all of the groceries and supplies we needed at Wal Mart, except for toilet paper and paper towels. So we went to Kroger and they were just unloading a pallet of toilet paper. There were signs with limits of 3 per customer. Since we had already shopped for groceries at the previous store and got all we needed there except for the paper products, we each got our limits of 3 and put in the cart. As we were headed to the register, a man on his cell phone stops mid sentence and looks directly at us and says, "You are ridiculous." I'd like to say that the love and grace of Jesus filled my heart and I was able to say something grace-filled. Instead, shock quickly gave way to anger and the fantasy of kicking him in the shins took over. It's amazing how quickly the need to explain our anger takes over in a moment. Of course, the whole internal conversation of "if he only knew..." gives way to the really mean things that go on in your head when you're humiliated for no good reason.
Throughout the day yesterday, every time the incident would come to mind, I'd find myself asking the question, "why did that anger me so much?" As the news updates came out with more restrictions and the general anxiety and fear of "what's next" and "how long" pervade, I found myself realizing that the powerlessness that gives rise to fear causes all of us to say and do things that we probably would not under "normal" circumstances. The idea of hunkering down and stocking up for "me and mine" is a pretty natural response. But yesterday, I also witnessed some pretty "unnatural" and uncommon responses.
I saw neighbors reaching out to help elderly neighbors get to the store or just going to the store for them.
Neighbors creating and stocking "Blessing Boxes" with non-perishable food items on corners in our neighborhood.
The Lower Lights Church's food pantry making the decision to continue on, especially as people are losing their jobs and desperately calling for food pantry orders.
Our partnering churches calling asking how they can help us...
For some, that might be seen as "ridiculous" to want to reach out and help when you should be more concerned about taking care of you and your family. Throughout the centuries, God's people (the Church) have probably looked pretty ridiculous as they responded to others in time of crisis, war, and famine.
For others, we actually may not know the full story and we can find ourselves judging others for reacting in certain ways, like the man in Wal Mart. He was unaware of our situation and the reasons we were purchasing the toilet paper for the ladies in our recovery houses. We must learn not to be quick to judge and not to jump to conclusions, but instead practice responding with kindness - the best way we can.
The way things are looking, it appears that this "new normal" is not going to be over soon. As each day brings a fresh new set of challenges and we are reminded of our humanity - our own mortality, the limits of what we can truly know and can do...basically all of the things that the season of Lent calls us to reflect upon.
This is also a moment for the people of God to lean into Him and truly ask ourselves where does my help come from?
In what or whom do I place my trust?
What is saving me today?
What are my automatic responses in times of fear and trial?
What things do I do that bring me a sense of security?
In searching my heart and reflecting on my own life, I am finding that there are things that I rely on that "aren't working for me." I am also finding that the Lord meets me where I am and is present. His presence brings peace, security, and refuge...even on those days when I am tempted to want to kick people in the shins.
- Emmalyn Jermome
Director of Rachel's House