“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 (NRSV)
Not that I keep much food in my house during the height of season, but I was due to be on vacation, so there was really no food in my kitchen as the pandemic began. After things at the church were settled, and our staff was sent safely to their homes to work remotely, I made my way into the madhouse known as Publix to get food and supplies. As I have mentioned numerous times, this extrovert was not in the least bit excited or enamored with the idea of self-quarantine. I completely agree with, and understand, the need for it. And I believe that it has saved, and will continue to save, lives. But I am already fantasizing about eating dinner out with friends, shopping leisurely at Waterside, and going to a movie theater again.
As I made my way around Publix last week trying to decide what I needed for rations, I saw a church member coming down the aisle. I was so happy to see her, and she seemed equally pleased to see me. Without thinking, I did what was natural for me to do and reached to give her a hug. As I did, she pulled back and I realized that I was not “social distancing” and immediately apologized. She laughed and said, “this is all so awkward, isn’t it?”
That day, as I finished my shopping and saw the frenetic and worried looks on the faces of my fellow shoppers, I wanted to stop and give everyone a hug. And as I saw footage of the pain and suffering in China and Italy on the news that night, I had the same reaction. I wish we could all stop and be physically present to each other, reassuring one another, and supporting one another. Alas, that is not possible in these times. However, I remain inspired by how connected we have all remained. I love the stories of phone calls, “virtual happy hours,” and FaceTime sessions with children and grandchildren. I think it remains vital that we discern for ourselves how to be present even if we cannot offer a simple hug during these times of social distancing. Then we will truly be “going the distance.”
Rev. Dr. Dawson B. Taylor
Ever-present God, as you reveal your presence to me in unique ways, help me to find ways to be present to others. Amen.