Three lessons from the pandemic

I am writing this after a very strange Easter. Normally, Easter is the time we emerge from Lenten disruption in the full elation of Spring. But this year we remain under the shadow of death. My guess is that you are probably reading this still under a stay-at-home order. I hope so. Lives depend on it.

The Easter story, the story of the resurrection of Jesus, is recorded in each of our Gospels. However, none of them tells the story the same way. This tells me that each author and each community they represent, needed something different from this experience, a different way of processing what happened.

The death of Jesus was a defeat. He spent years building a following, a people’s movement, that he then took to Jerusalem to confront the powers that be. All those people had invested, not just their time and energy, but their hopes and dreams of liberation into Jesus. Then he died. The Easter narratives are their attempts to cope with that loss.

Those who loved Jesus coped with his loss by realizing that his mission continued in them. His presence was palpably felt. That is a common experience after the death of a loved one. Each one would have felt that presence differently.

In the empty tomb, the women were robbed of their chance to grieve but received the news that all will be well. The men, who were hiding in fear, were visited by a ghostly Jesus. They felt his warm breath, and Thomas touched the wounds. The disciples on the way to Emmaus experienced Jesus’ presence in the familiar sharing of bread. And Mary Magdalene, perhaps the most distraught, wanted to hold on tightly, never letting Jesus transition into his new reality. Each of these responses is an authentic attempt at redeeming their loss.

Right now, each of us is experiencing some loss. It may just be the loss of normalcy. It may be the loss of a loved one or the diminishment of our own health. It may be the loss of a job. These losses should be mourned, just as the disciples mourned the loss of Jesus.

But the disciples’ losses were redeemed; ours can be, too. We can learn from this. We have to. Here are some things I hope we learn.

First, I hope that we are reminded that we have each other. I have been so proud of this community. While others are panic buying, we’re sharing the bounty of our gardens and chicken coops. Know that we are resilient.

Second, I hope that we learn that a little means a lot. Under the restrictions of social distancing, we are limited in what we can do, but what we have done has meant so much, even posting silly signs in parks to give people a respite of joy. Never think that what you can do is not worth doing.

Third, I hope we learn that vulnerability for any of us is vulnerability for all of us. Lack of universally accessible health care; lack of a functioning social safety net; low wages; massive and expanding wealth inequality; and an economy that depends entirely on consumption add up to a very fragile society. We must emerge from this knowing that we can do better, and we have to do better.

I know this is a stressful time. I know that however you are responding to it is how you need to respond. Pay attention to the anxiety, the hurt and the worry. We’ll need all that later. Reach out if you need help. We’ll need those connections forged in crisis. For now, you’re doing great! Stay safe.