Redefining normal


What amazes me about people, as a society, is their dark times. I’m not just talking about America here either. But people in general. Forget nations, borders, and skin. People in times of change and fear can amaze me.

People are stubborn, and I love it. Sure, it has caused a lot of heartache and sorrow in many lives, but in times like this, in moments of darkness when they have a light of hope to hold onto, that stubbornness pays off. We push through, headstrong, and grab each other’s arms and drag each other along.

More than just “getting by” in the last week, I’ve started noticing so many different things about people. As some have started venturing out again, as some are still staying home, I see points of color.

You see, to me, in the past month or two, since the outbreak really kicked up, I have seen a lot of black and white in the world. A lot of cynicism, but a lot of helping each other. That can be great, but that’s very divided. I loved seeing stories about people donating or volunteering, others creating masks. That’s great, but it is the white to balance the black. The color comes in between.

The color comes when I don’t just see people wearing masks, but I had someone create a more “fashionable” mask for me. I have this thing now that has a pattern with superheroes on it. Just days ago, I ran into a woman with a crocheted mask that could hold the masks and filters, but it was designed to look like the “baby-yoda-thing” from The Mandalorian. I asked her about it and she said her daughter loved the show and designed it for her. It even had the ears sticking forward out of the mask from the top of it.

I have seen others wearing designed masks that look like animal mouths. Yeah, sort of cliche, but it was funny to me and I liked it. Of course, we already have masks for men and women to match their outfits for the day. from matching a purse, tie, shirt, dress, shoes. Leave it to us as humans to make sure that the thing keeping us and others safe is going to look just as good as the rest of our outfit.

I’ve seen cloth masks, medical-grade masks, surgical masks, bandana masks, patterned masks, drawn-on-designs, flag patterns, designer logos, and so many others that I feel like I could pen a Dr. Seuss book about it, “One mask, two masks, Red masks, blue masks.”

But its more than making masks our own, the stubbornness stretches to who we are as people. We are social creatures. Yeah, even you introverts in the back, I see you. You may not be as social, but I am willing to bet there is someone you like being around, even if only for small amounts of time. We’ve all seen musicians starting to put on concerts from home, we’ve read about sports coming back this summer to play in empty stadiums.

Yeah, it’s not the same, but when you need to play some music, you get your concert on however you can. Stubbornness wins. I know at least two local musicians doing the exact same thing because they just want to be social, play music, and have some fun. One even does trivia between songs.

A medical student that I spoke with just two days ago said she even thought that the virus has done some good with so many people so aware of the germs in their lives now and the ease that they spread from surface to hand to face. She said, “We in the medical profession have always known, but, now, people are listening.”

I’ve had zoom meetings, both for business and for personal meetings. It has amazed me how quickly that meeting stops if a dog or cat appears on someone’s screen. And nobody complains, they welcome the moment of distraction. And even though it is through a screen, we are inviting people into our homes again. A glimpse into each other’s personal space. We may be social distancing, but I’ve never been closer to some people. Aquaintances I know through social activities, I’ve learned so much about them because I’ve met their kids, their families, their pets as they pass behind a laptop camera.

I’ve seen a lot more literal color, too. I have seen a lot of people out in their yards, playing in the streets, working in a garden. Not far from my house, there is a large pasture on each side of the road. On the left, horses roam the fields, grazing and enjoying the cool air for now. On the right, a very large herd of cows groups up to stand in a drink from a creek running through their field that stretches for what I assume is nearly a mile. Yet, this past month, I’ve found myself driving slower than I normally do through the area and it isn’t because of the animals in the fields. I’ve seen eight kids on bicycles. I’ve not seen this before in the two years that I’ve lived in my house.

They ride the road between these fields with a German Shephard close at their heels. Laughing and racing, I’ve noticed them at midday several days in a row. I don’t know them, but I politely wave as I pass them and go on to my errands or work. A few sit in a driveway, one of them drawing on the asphalt with a piece of chalk.

I’ve smelled the honeysuckles blooming as my allergies go into fits, but I’ve also smelled more backyard campfires, grills, and meat cooking.

It’s these little things that I’ve noticed now.

My world changed, I saw a lot of black and white. But, just like when I was a child laying in the floor of my Dad’s living room with a coloring book, I’ve taken this past month to fill in a lot of the black and white pictures with a little bit of work and a few broken crayons. And thanks to that, I have a lot more color in my book.

Suffering amid the Easter Holiday for tomorrow


Easter is coming upon us in America at an interesting time this year. Of course, no explanation is necessary for anyone to know why. It is hard to find some joy and celebration with family this year, especially if they are sheltering in a home separate from you, if they are older, or if they may have been sick recently and at risk.

But I have something very strange to say to people this Easter Holiday. And bear with me as I explain what I mean to both those who are religious, and those who are not. It is hard and there is great worry and fear in this time. And while each person individually has different things they are dealing with, I speak generally to humanity as a whole.

As a people, some have handled the issue quite well, and there is a lot of inspiration in this world right now. So, to those who are just at home avoiding the virus and dealing with being couped up right now, “Suffer well.”

I understand some are dealing with death or severe sickness, and that is something different. But to the rest of us dealing with the shelter order, there is hard times for reasons.

If you lived in a world that never stormed, would you get tired of the sun? Would that matter at all when you start thinking that you couldn’t grow food, the land would dry up? Animals couldn’t live. It’s a part of the cycle.

For an axe to be sharp, it must have the stone to grind against. For one to build muscle, they must work the muscle and stress that muscle.

Speaking Religiously, countless ministers have spoken about God using the hard times to help you grow. The Bible is full of stories about people who suffered, but great things came from their pain. The central story of the Bible and of Easter focuses on a man who suffered for you. That is the whole idea. That is the whole point. Suffer, whether it is for love, for a greater good, for others. Enjoy the good and bask in that light, but during the storms look to the good that will come next. And there are storm clouds over America right now.

Speaking not-so-religiously, look at the cycle of this planet, for every drought, there is a good season. For every dark storm and rough rain, there is a point when the light breaks through the clouds. There is a rainbow that follows the rain. Focus on the moment you’re in, and learn that in general, people who go through tough times, get stronger because of it. When we were attacked, as a nation, how quickly did the steel of our will harden to offer help? Would the firefighters amid the towers be the heroes they have become if there wasn’t a tragedy to highlight their heroism?

Yes, it would be great if tragedy didn’t happen, but it does. As we celebrate Easter, a time of joy and laughter over the years, we may not feel like celebrating much in our homes. Maybe we feel trapped in our four walls, but there is so much to celebrate. Even as we “suffer” in our time of worry and uneasiness in our country, we celebrate the death of one man who sacrificed his life for love. Celebrate your faith if it says he rose again. Celebrate your faith in humanity as you constantly find story after story about this person who is making medical masks for people and adding a little light and color to others lives or that person who is donating food to the community pantry for those in need.

To “suffer well” is not something you are just going to do, though. It’s a choice, yes, but it is action and determination. Focus on the strength you gain from this fear. Focus on the good you see. While some media outlets focus on the virus, seek out the stories of those who are helping. Those who are working. Be determined not to get angry if the store is out of something, instead thank someone for continuing to work and trying to keep stock on the shelves amid this virus. They are working with the same fear you have. The police officer is patrolling the town closer to people than you really want or need to be right now.

What about that firefighter who got exposed to the virus because he was trying to help you? It wasn’t even a life saving venture, but someone still needed him or her. That firefighter has a daughter that they couldn’t see for fourteen days because they were there for you. They didn’t see you and try to decide if it was worth it. They responded, they reacted. They suffered for you. They were separated from family and friends, for a stranger. That firefighter suffered well, and it was hard.

You may not celebrate the religious holiday, but a majority of America celebrates something on this day. Even if you think candy eggs and bunny rabbits are dumb, but you still join with your family because they want you there. You are celebrating with them, celebrating life and love. And if you do celebrate the religious holiday, then all the more, celebrate a man who suffered so much more than you probably ever will. What is worth such suffering? What is so precious, that it is worth that firefighter’s sacrifice? Worth Jesus’ sacrifice? Worth you staying home and being uncomfortable? Worth the efforts we all put into maintaining life through all this going on?

Suffer well, my people. Suffer well this Easter for the love of family, of friends, of strangers, of this nation,  and of hope for tomorrow and how much stronger we will be then. Suffer well.

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