I have been reminded quite often this past week or two of the first line from Charles Dickens’ book Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” if I am remembering it correctly. There has been so much sadness going on around me; at work and in the news.

We have been keeping a “social distance” at work, and working staggered shifts so there is not more than a few of us in the office. Normally there are ten of us in the office, or more accurately in the office suites. But with the schedule we are on, there are rarely more than four of us on site at anyone time. My office mate and co-worker is working mostly from home or at a different time than I am. The person who is in the office next door is doing the same. Coordinating and figuring out logistics to get the work done is challenging. Our agency provides supportive services for people with developmental disabilities, both at their homes and at their jobs. We also help them find and keep jobs in the community. It is important and worthwhile work, and considered to be essential so we will not be closing down. Therefore this rotating scheduling will have to be continued as long as coronavirus is a threat.

In my community so many stores and services are shut down. And what is not shut down is operating at “social distances” as well. And just like most of the rest of the country, in the stores there are more empty spaces and shelves than there are household products and grocery items to buy. It is to the point where, like I am sure most people are doing, I buy groceries and household products as I see them available. Rest assured, beloved reader, I only one item or maybe two if the product is not “high demand”. And the stores that are open are taking more precautions as well. “Sneeze/cough guards” for the cashiers to work behind, no reusable bags allowed unless you bag your own items, and carts are being sanitized between each customer. I appreciate the lengths that store staff are going to, but it is sad that each person’s human presence needs to be eradicated.

What makes up for that, and is why it is also the best of times is that human kindness, compassion, and caring is on the upswing. Humans are social beings, and just because we have to now live “at a distance” does not mean we are ignoring each other. Story after story is reported of people finding ways to be unified while maintaining the necessary isolation. What is replacing human touch are touching compassion and caring. The human spirit finds a way to say “I am here and I care.” I think society as a whole had taken for granted the way connection and contact is maintained. Now that we have to live at a distance, we are trying to find more and more inventive ways to connect and stay connected.

When school closings were first announced, the assumption was that students (I am talking about elementary & secondary school students) could and would be home schooled. But today I saw a posting encouraging parents NOT to try home schooling their children but simply enjoy spending time with them and create good memories. How wonderful is that! Just think what that will mean for the next generation that these children got a chance to make a real connection with their parents! In the society we were experiencing just a month or two ago, everyone was so busy doing activities and going from one place to the other that time spent together was so little. Now there is an abundance of time to spend together. I heard an intriguing terminology on the radio today – quarin-team. That is the people who make up the group you are “sheltering at home with”. These are the people who share your living space, and for better or worse, have been sharing your breathing space and environment for the last few months – that is, before Covid-19 became a thing.

That terminology reminded me of our relationship with the Divine. We may not share living space – actual geographical living space – with the Lord God. However, those of us who profess a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ and the Lord God have an intimate relationship with the Divine. We may not always feel like we are at “close quarters” with the Divine, but the Divine abides in each of us, and is with us through every situation. While I do not think the Divine is the “author” of this virus (as I have seen hinted at) I do think the Lord God is using this event in our global community to remind us that we are all connected in a very basic way.

It is the worst of times because we, as a global community, have been faced with death – deaths that rend the heart. It is the best of times because we have seen human compassion and caring overcome so much sadness and distancing. In these worst of times, beloved reader, may you express care and compassion to/with those dear to your heart so that the days and months to come might also be the best of times. Selah!