A Very Present Help

My column for The Elgin Review, March 17, 202

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1-3,7 NRSV)

What a strange and disquieting thing it is to live on the front side of a silent, invisible disaster. Last spring, when the floods came to northeast Nebraska, the waters roared and foamed, the ice creaked and cracked in our rivers and our eyes could see the devastation unfolding around us. There was evidence of the danger at hand.

This spring Covid 19 threatens to roar over us like a world-wide flood, not of waters, but of disease and we cannot yet see it. Trucks whir past our houses down the highway. Children laugh and goof around on the sidewalks. Calves frolic in the fields. Everything feels so normal, and yet not. I don’t know about you, but the pit of my stomach feels funny.

Here in Antelope county, life around us goes on almost like normal for now. For my kids, living in other places, the spread of the virus and its threat is more real.

My son in New York City has been working from home since last week. He texted us his current fear is catching cabin fever. Usually he works on the 39th floor of one of the World Trade Center buildings. Now, his “office” is his large computer monitor in his very small bedroom in his small apartment shared with two roommates. He may be working from there for the rest of the spring.

My daughter-in-law just started working from home in Minneapolis instead of in the big corporate office where she usually writes software.

My son in Pittsburgh, PA drives Lyft for a living. He wonders how long he will be able to or want to continue to drive in close quarters with strangers who may be carrying the disease. He doesn’t want to get sick, but even more urgently he doesn’t want to become a vector for the spread of Covid-19. What if he gets it from one of his passengers, and before he knows he’s sick, spreads it around the city by driving people where they need to go? But, what will he do without income?

Last spring, when Nebraska flooded, we knew what to do. We looked out for our neighbors. We did what it took to rescue strangers. People worked hard to help each other out of harm’s way, and when the devastation was done, people helped with the clean-up, comforted those who grieved and helped each other get back on their feet.

With faith in God, and trust in our neighbors, we weathered the 2020 floods.

I’m confident we’ll do the same with Covid-19. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Cancel your gatherings and trips and celebrations. Prepare but don’t hoard. Check in on your older neighbors. Hunker down at home. It won’t be forever, but forever God is with us.

If you’re feeling unsettled by this pandemic, if social isolation leaves you feeling sad, know that your neighbors at Park Congregational United Church of Christ stand ready to care for you. You can reach out to me at beckyzmcneil@gmail.com.

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