When the Coronavirus, or Covid-19, embedded itself into our public consciousness as being a real threat to us along with the rest of the world, and not a hoax, it still took most of us by surprise. Yes, we had all heard extensive coverage in the news about China, where it is said to have originated, cruise ships, unwittingly used to transport it to our shores, and Italy, where it was devastating an entire country. Yet, we still tried to retain a sense of normalcy about it all. At least I did.
Having suddenly lost my father to a long-term illness, although expected, my mind was still trying to cope with my own private new normal, which still didn’t seem real. So, this didn’t seem too real either. Until I got up and went to the gym on Monday, March 16, 2020. And found a half-empty studio. Even at 5:00 a.m., people showed up for their workouts like clockwork. Not today.
Precautions were taken. If your name wasn’t toward the top of the roster, you received a call the night before that you hadn’t made the cut. For the rest of us, there was no getting your favorite piece of equipment. Mine was either the treadmill or the rower, both located with my right side next to a window and my left side next to a fellow “gym rat”.
I must confess that as much as I enjoy serving my clients and engaging them in meaningful conversations, when it’s time to work out, I like my space and my quiet time. But this morning, everyone was positioned on every other piece of equipment to maintain the newly mandated three to six feet between bodies. Space and quiet. Cool. “Ok, maybe this new normal won’t be so bad,” I thought to myself.
After getting my rower location, I chatted a bit with Noelle, the young lady who checked me into the facility. Here’s what she shared with me:
-- She had just returned from vacation and before she left, she made sure there were no perishables in the fridge, like most of us would do. Now, she can’t get the basic food items she needs at the grocery store because perishables were mostly sold out.
-- She was excited about graduating from college this year but won’t have a ceremony because it was cancelled by the school in order to keep everyone safe, per new special restrictions which prohibited crowds over 250 people (at the time of this writing).
-- She was bummed that one of her classmates and very good friend had an athletic meet which ended up being the last one of the season, and she missed being there for her friend’s event.
Clearly, she was hurting. It was in her face and her body language. She was feeling a bit deflated. I offered to bring her some food out of my freezer, since my husband had just been shopping over the weekend, but she said she would make due until she goes to stay with her parents when the gym decides to close up shop.
With all the restrictions on touching, I asked her to put her hoodie around her head so I could hug her, and she let me. Then I asked if I could pray for her. I said, “We don’t have to hold hands, but I want to pray for you.” She looked a little stunned, but she said, “Ok.” I didn’t shout at the top of my lungs. I just thanked the Lord for his care no matter what happens. And I went on into my class.
After my workout, she looked me in the eyes and sincerely thanked me for “everything.” I didn’t bring her any food, or water, or toilet paper. I gave her what she needed, and that which I had to give freely: a hug and a prayer.
It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. We must now begin looking into the eyes of our fellow human beings, with the understanding that our ways of “being” are severely altered for this moment in time. We will become acutely aware of our need for being with one another, now more than ever.
We must figure out how we can be socially responsible with the great need to balance physical distancing and psychological dependency. That means offering our presence.
In time, we will realize that the presence, and prayers, of others is EXACTLY what we all need right now – and in the days ahead – and it’s what we all have to give freely, without running out.