Using our imagination can help us be more ready to love our neighbour when pandemic restrictions return.
For some of us, the greatest challenge of the past few months was trying to keep the extra pounds from accumulating as we curbed our boredom by binge-watching Netflix series, doing our part to couch-potato our way through the pandemic. We all agreed we were saving lives by staying home.
Comfortable in our suburbs – or in my case in a somewhat isolated part of Manitoba – we didn’t see the homeless people no longer able to ask for coins for a coffee or use the bathroom at their local McDonald’s. We knew many of our ministries were closed indefinitely but perhaps didn’t consider the full ramifications of closed homeless shelters, drop-in centres and counselling organizations. Even the closure of libraries meant that many people could no longer use the computers there and access the Internet, so were unable to apply for EI when they lost their minimum wage jobs. I wonder what more we could have done, especially in our churches.
I know several people who battle mental illness and/or addictions who depended on a minimum wage or volunteer job as a tether to their fragile existence – during this time they were pushed to the brink. I know how meaningful it was for some minimum wage workers to be deemed essential. I wonder if we could have done more to advocate for other jobs to be ruled as essential.
And those most vulnerable of our society, those in care – with mental illness, physical or developmental challenges, hospitalization, imprisonment and the infirmities of age – it’s hard to imagine their experience of suddenly being isolated and cut off from all family and social supports. What more we could have done to try to visit them or reach out?
One of my sisters, the primary caregiver for our intellectually handicapped brother, noticed he was lying in bed in the dark for long periods of the day. I encouraged her to allow him to walk around town as he used to do, and stop in at the one coffee shop that allowed pedestrian customers. He soon became his cheerful outgoing self again. He was not approached by the police, and no fines were laid against my sister.
And then there were the very sick among us, and those awaiting operations – for stents, amputations, transplants and tumor removal – who had these needed interventions postponed. When you are very sick, it is hard to find the strength to fight for yourself. I wonder if we could have reached out more and better as churches to people who were ill?
My husband is a teacher, and so I have heard much about the challenges of distance education. But for those children in dysfunctional or minimally functional families, the supports they needed could not be provided in a virtual classroom. One can only imagine the fear, confusion and dread of the future they experienced during these past few months. I wonder if we could have done more to help families and especially our most precious little ones?
I hope that as we wonder, we’ll imagine what we can do next time, and be more ready to do it.
Dorene Meyer is the editor of Sixties Scoop Survivor Stories (Goldrock Press, 2020) and author of Bannock and Sweet Tea (Goldrock Press 2019). She lives in Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba. Photo of blue door by Jan Tinneberg from Unsplash.