As you read this, you are in the middle of what will surely be known as the “Pandemic of 2020”. You are, have been, or will be confined to your house. Cut off from everyday life. That sounds depressing. If you follow me on Facebook you know that I don’t post articles about the spread of the virus. There are plenty of them out there. Instead, I try to spread a little joy and love through stupid memes and photos. I have also shared some songs. All are intended to lift spirits.
Today I want to tell you about some people in Granada that will hopefully lift your spirits as well. Perhaps they will inspire you. They have me.
There is a man here who is from the United States. He has lived here or Costa Rica for over 15 years. He has a Nicaraguan wife but no children. Every week he prepares over 25 shopping bags of rice, vegetables and beans. Every month he adds a bag of salt. With the virus outbreak he was concerned that he would have to stop. So he came up with a plan. He has the bags sitting in front of his garden area. He waits for the knock on the door, dawns a face mask and gloves and greets the people. He gives them their provisions and sends them on their way. No hugs. No handshakes. No outward displays of gratitude required. He is simply helping for help’s sake.
I know a doctor at one of the hospitals here in Nicaragua. Their supplies are low. They are getting ready for the onslaught yet to commence. He is working double shifts, sleeping at the hospital, just in case. He remains away from his family, his children and his normal life. Yes, he is paid. But it is not enough. Not nearly enough. Not nearly enough compared to the risk. Not nearly enough considering the reasonable assumption that he could go anywhere other than Nicaragua and make 2, 3, 4 times as much as he does here, yet he loves his people. He loves his patients. He is willing to take the risk.
One of my students, one of the Georges, that we talked about some weeks ago works in a call center. He doesn’t have the money to buy the beefed up internet needed to work from home. For that manner, if he did have the money, he might not be able to rely on it. So, for his family, he goes to Managua every week. He stays at a friend’s house. He goes into his office. He wipes down his phone and works 12 hour shifts.
I have two dear friends who own a restaurant. They are young and energetic. They have figured out that they had to change their business model if they were going to stay open. They are also bighearted and care for their community. So now they have converted their menu to affordable lunches. They take orders today and deliver them to you the next day at noon. Some days they make a profit. Some days, maybe most days they take a loss. But they opine that they can keep their venue viable and help people at the same time.
These are the super heroes of our time. These are the all-stars. You have them in your neighborhood too. I have a friend who might live near you, who works in the ICU. She is on the frontline of her community’s battle. She works every day. What her patients don’t know is that she has and is battling cancer. Her immune system is weaker than most of ours, yet she says, “I’m just doing my job.”
The situation is better here than in the U.S.. That isn’t to say that we won’t get there or that it couldn’t change at any minute. But for now, our tiny little spot in Central America is moving forward. We will scrap the fear in favor of faith. We will be emboldened by hope. We will walk in love.
We are told in scripture not to worry. I know, in this situation, that it is akin to telling a five year old not to touch something dangerous. But one of my other heroes reminded me of the passage in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6. There Jesus says that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow because today has enough junk in it already (Jeff Thackston paraphrase). “Don’t worry” does not mean “Don’t be wise”. It doesn’t mean, “Be stupid”. It means just what it says, “Don’t worry”.
Will we have our moments of doubt? We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But will we let this paralyze us and forget that our number one priority in life is to live fearlessly, to completely embody love, and let God take care of the rest? I, for one, will not.
You take care of yourselves. Be safe. Wash your hands. Practice social-distancing, for certain, but don’t forget to love those who are put into your path, virtually or otherwise. And most of all, don’t worry.
I love you all very much. I was talking to a friend of mine about Gary Chapman’s book concerning the languages of love. If you haven’t read it, take some of this cloistered time and do so. If you have and you know me, you will know that my preferred displays of love are touch and acts of kindness. I like hugs. I like to lightly touch you on the shoulder as we speak so that you know I am engaged. I love that the normal greeting among friends here in Nicaragua is a peck on the cheek. But that has, for the most part, been taken away. I promise you, however, that they cannot take away my ability to reach out and be kind to others. I hope you will not allow this crisis to impede that in your life either.
Distancing and disconnection are two different words. Don’t disconnect. Don’t worry. Engage!
Dios los bendiga