Last month was special; it was the first time I was able to attend a worship service since the pandemic made it necessary for me to shelter-in-place. I am 81, a cancer survivor and have diabetes. Although the pastor insisted “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb,” I am more of a Jesus’ Old Ewe. Whatever. This was the Good Shepherd Sunday. I am just thankful that as a child of God this isolation has not been stressful for me, although like most of you I am wishing it would end so I could get on with whatever God has planned for me in the rest of my life here on Earth.
I am not looking forward to getting life back to normal as we knew it before this pandemic, because I believe we need to realize the old hedonistic life style is unsustainable and look for ways we could do with less for ourselves and more for the others in this world. We have been so blessed in America that we often think of our blessings (wealth, health, education, work opportunities, freedom, family, friends, or whatever) as rights and fail to see our responsibility to use them wisely.
There is a saying: “What if we woke up today with nothing more than what we thanked God for yesterday?” As a nation we have become so greedy that we often fail to be thankful for the blessings we have. Me? Not thankful? Maybe you feel you have nothing for which to be thankful, especially if you have lost your source of income or a loved one. Did you appreciate your work and that person you lost and thank God for those blessings before you lost them?
Or were you looking forward to having more as your right? I understand; I too had plans that have had to be reevaluated and may never be possible, and I understand the pain of loss. Years ago I was engaged, married and widowed within one year. I couldn’t understand how God could allow such a happy marriage to end so abruptly, but He was in control then as He is now.
Although I often don’t understand His ways, my confidence that God loves me (and you) enough to send His Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins gives me tremendous comfort that God has a plan, and when my life on Earth ends, I can look forward to eternal life with Him.
As a Christian, I have no fear of death, although I certainly do enjoy each day with which I am blessed. I wasn’t afraid of getting COVID-19 or even dying from it. I have had a good life, but I felt responsible to not bring the virus into where I live. I don’t particularly like wearing a mask or looking at people with them, but I do it for others. I simply try to use common sense to minimize my chances of getting the virus. I refrain from “information” from social media because I am not always smart enough to figure out what is true and what is simply what someone thinks or predicts and posts as fact.
While quarantined, I have enjoyed a lot of time for thinking. I admit I live in my own little bubble where I have not lost my job and source of income. I retired years ago and my retirement is relatively secure. I haven’t lost my place to live; I like my little apartment in the senior community where the management has put rules in place to keep the residents safe. I am relatively independent and healthy and directly responsible for only myself and others in a general way. I am thankful I live in Alaska with its low population density so I can safely go for walks outside, and now with these lovely spring days I can enjoy gardening, and God provides warm sunshine to make what I plant grow.
I ache for the homeless with no place to shelter in place and those unable to visit with loved ones because they are quarantined. How thankful I am that my husband of 50+ years died before this pandemic; how painful it would be if I were unable to be with him every day as I was during the 18 years I was his caregiver.
Worse yet, I ache for those who have lost their source of income. I am thankful the government is trying to help them but critical of how money is being distributed; it should only go to those in need and not necessarily to businesses to “save” our economy. We are proud of the opportunities of capitalism, but as an economist I know capitalism works because it allows the freedom to fail. Appropriately, government should support public services for the common good, but it is inappropriate to save the economy by bailing out private businesses. Also, the federal government gave $1,200 to many individuals (including myself) who didn’t need it. The money came with a letter from the president as if it was a personal gift from him. That money would have been more humanely spent if dedicated to those in need as people who lost their jobs and the nonprofit agencies that have stepped up to the plate to help. That money that has been borrowed to cover these generous expenditures will need to be paid for and impact the country’s economic future.
We are so focused on our economic losses, but what about the millions of people in other countries? Countries where there are refugees living in camps that don’t even have water to simply wash their hands and where life is complicated by war or drought or both. We may not feel it’s our responsibility to save the whole world, but when we lack compassion for others, we fail to see how this is more than an American crisis; the whole world is in crisis together. If we would help others in need (rather than what is politically convenient), perhaps the world would respect the Christian values we espouse.
Often people are asked for advice about how to get through this pandemic; daily the media tells us of creative and wonderful deeds people are doing to keep their spirits lifted. Essential workers are rightly appreciated and thanked, but so should every parent be who juggles working at home while home-schooling, and even more those parents who are not able to work but are trying to help their children get through this critical time. Unfortunately, there are many who aren’t coping well. Life seems hopeless.
As Christians, we known we are not alone; God is with us and in control. In my 81 years I have gone through many difficult times, times when I felt my life was so out of control I just didn’t want to go on. Sometimes I needed the loving counseling and help from others around me to realize that “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want…. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (From Psalm 23 in the Bible)
At worship, the pastor assured us with these words: The Good Shepherd looks after His lambs (all of His children). I find comfort that includes the old and not so old ewes and rams, and that’s a comfort we don’t hear enough of these days.
Leslye A. Korvola lives in Fairbanks.