A Devotional from Rev. Bridgett Green
Temporary new normal. Getting back to normal. In this time of surviving the spread and mitigation of COVID-19, these are common refrains in daily conversations. They help us as adjust to a life of social distancing and staying at home. Maybe in a few weeks or a few months, we will return to normal. Or maybe, we won’t.
Lately, I have wondered whether I want to return to normal. Do I want life to return as it used to be? Regardless of my preference, living through this pandemic is changing me. I imagine that it is changing most to all of us, as we experience this collective trauma, whether as a community or as an individual. Honestly, I want to change. I want a new normal for me and for society.
Do not misunderstand me. This pandemic is an extraordinarily disruptive and catastrophic phenomenon. We have witnessed massive devastations as families must go to food banks for the first time; as people prepare to miss rent and mortgage payments for a second month; as those without health insurance fear getting sick or the sick fear losing their jobs.
It has caused losses of incomes, businesses, food, education, and life. It has increased homelessness, isolation, and declines in our mental, social, and physical health. This is only an abbreviated list! Our anxiety levels are through the roof as we worry for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Meanwhile, we are left without our usual places for refuge or comfort. Gone is our ability to physically gather and do as the saints say, “touch and agree.” There are no family movie nights, dinners with friends, or drinks with coworkers at happy hour. We are unable to take our children to the park. We can’t visit with our friends, hug our families, or travel. We can’t even go to church and fellowship at the Lord’s table.
While I truly miss my family, friends, and church community, this season of isolation has given me a lot of time to ponder: what is normal, what do I want to keep, and what I want to change. What was once normal was my superficial empathy for those who experience homelessness. I saw them sleeping on sidewalks and benches when I walked downtown; I drove pass their encampments under the highway. Occasionally, I gave change from my pocket to someone who asked. The spread of COVID-19 and two distinct conversations with Presbyterian pastors have focused my heart toward the perils and plights of those who experience homelessness.
In a brief conversation with my fellow MRA Board member the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, who ministers in New Jersey, and a longer talk with the Rev. Carolina Treviño, here in Austin, I have changed. My concerns grow deeper for those without homes, without running water, and without constant access to food or medication. The Holy Spirit’s ministry through them spurs me into a new normal. In addition to giving time and money toward alleviating the perils and conditions of homelessness, I am turning my awareness into actions in my civic duties. Once, I was blind toward those whose lives were already precarious before social services became limited, shelters closed, and food pantries emptied. Now, I see them. I see me in them—person to person; God’s child to God’s child.
As I eagerly await the norms of visiting family, hanging with friends, and sharing in the Eucharist, I hope for a new normal that better reflects the realm of God, the love of Jesus, and the light of the Resurrection.