Surviving a storm

Our beautiful city of Granada is surviving. You might say just barely surviving, but we are trying to get through this pandemic. Every day another restaurant closes or we hear the news of another death. People, for the most part, are staying safe. Masks are being worn. Handshakes and hugs have been replaced by waves and fist bumps. Yet the reports of midnight burials still persist. The hospitals are still full. We are still concerned.

I am not certain of the reason, but it seems like we are losing more people to other illnesses as well. Maybe it is with the heightened awareness of COVID-19 that we just pay more attention. One of my friends passed away this week, he had run a restaurant and bar a couple of blocks away from the main restaurant row, La Calzada. He was from Great Britain and he offered the best fish and chips that I have had in a while. As good as any London Chippy Shop. He also offered a place where foreigners, mostly North Americans, could gather and watch all of the NFL games during the season. Of course, he would open early when his beloved English Premier League football (soccer to some of you) games would play. It was just a good place to hang out with friends and Brian was a good man to sit and chat with during the timeouts or other breaks in games. He sold his part of the restaurant just before it was closed because of the virus. I had not seen him in a couple of months. I have not heard how he passed, but no matter what, Granada has lost a person who loved his city and his friends. Rest In Peace, Brian Running.

I have a puppy now. I think most of you know that. Like not realizing you are tired until you hit the bed or forgetting that you’re hungry until you smell food, I did not realize I was lonely until Coco came into my life. She is feisty, sassy and a great companion.

The need is still great here in Nicaragua. In fact, the physical needs have probably increased since the whole quarantine began. I get messages and calls everyday from someone who is asking for food or a job or prayer. We continue to feed families and continue to offer classes online. We take all the necessary precautions and are praying that we can remain safe.

In all of this we have not faltered in our faith. There have been moments when that faith, hope, and love are all we have. Every day, in spite of the pandemic, maybe even because of it, new opportunities to serve come our way. God is still working in this beautiful country.

Stacy, our UnoMas ambassador to the U.S., has a tattoo on her forearm. The ink represents the great triumvirate of I Corinthians 13 where Paul says, “these three remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love”. I am reminded of that everyday. Sometimes the only things that remain are those 3 pillars. My friends, those will never go away in this life. Hold on to them as they will be what will carry you through.

In the old days, sailors would be known to lash themselves to the masts during terrible storms. The idea is that if mast falls then all is lost anyway. However, it would surely be the last to succumb to the torment. So it was better to tie yourself to the mast than risk going overboard on a wave or wind surge. That is what we can do with our faith, our hope, and the love we have in our hearts. The winds buffet and seas roar but these three things remain.

I hope you are well. I hope you are safe. I hope you have secured yourself to those masts. I love you all. Thank you for your continued support.

Dios los bendiga.

Hard Pressed but not Crushed

Would someone please reboot 2020? Covid-19, murder hornets, cicada plagues, murders, protests, all have contributed to making this year one of the worst in memory.

Fortunately, here in Granada we have not seen the cicada or the hornets. But Covid is rampant. Like the United States only the famous deaths are reported. But families everywhere are being impacted by this disease. We are, according to many sources out of ICU beds in the entire western half of the country.

What does all this mean? Where will it all end? I simply don’t know.

But there are some things that I do know.

First, there are more people tuning into spiritual videos and websites than ever before. In times of crisis, people look for answers. They look for stability. The search for some way to make sense of it all. That is true here as well. I have personal messages on WhatsApp and Facebook every day from folks asking me to pray. They are asking me questions about God. They are seeking.

Secondly, this too will end. I know it’s not what we want to hear. We want specifics. We want details. I just don’t know. Only God knows. But I do know that one day we will look back on this and talk about the days of the great plague of 2020. If we read history, we realize that all of creation is cyclical. Human interaction, weather, even viruses come and go in this wonderful wacky planet.

Finally, if I know anything, I know that God is in control. Our faith is the only thing that will sustain us. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians said,

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8,9)

This is the promise we can hold onto. These are the words of comfort given us by a caring Father. In this thought, we can have hope. No matter what comes into our path, God is greater. We will not be crushed. We are not in despair. We are not abandoned. We will not be destroyed. Our faith will sustain us.

Please pray for all my Nicaraguan friends as we continue to pray for you.

As I said, Pastor Guillermo lost his aunt this past week and many other of people I know are sick or have ill loved ones.

This has not been an easy year thus far. That may be the understatement of all time. But we, like all those who have gone before us and suffered their own hardships and calamities, know that soon and very soon this too shall pass.

I love you all very much. Hang on to the hope that dwells within us all. Be safe!

Dios los bendiga

Spring will come

It seems so cliche to say, but if we are learning anything in this crisis it is that our lives are not about the time we have, but rather how we utilize the time we are given. I have seen several memes on the internet in the past two months that express humorously this sentiment.

One I remember is a picture of a man and woman. The woman has a list of chores. The man says, “I’ll do it when I get enough time.” The caption said, “2019”. The second panel of course had the same woman, holding the same list, tapping her foot. The man’s speech balloon had him saying, “Oh, no.” The caption read, “2020”.

I think back on times in my life when I could have spent more time with the relationships I have but chose instead to work. There have been people in my life who I have passed by or passed off because I deemed them time wasters. That is a mistake I don’t intend on making again.

I have a friend who lost both of her parents this week within 9 hours of each other due to the Covid-19. I have dear and precious family members who are battling cancer. I have friends who are trying to make sense of this whole mess while they are fighting depression.

Nicaragua, as well, has been hit hard this week. We enjoyed a respite for a while. Other countries seemed to have a much more difficult time of it. Now they are saying the epicenter of the virus is Central America. Every day we hear of someone new. Today I heard that the hard working librarian out the main library is “grave”. For those of you who have travelled to Granada you would have met her.

People are putting pleas on Facebook for rides to the hospital and for oxygen tanks.

But in all this dreary news, we still have hope. Historically every pandemic the world has known has been followed by a renewal. We experience it every Spring in the United States. One of the things I miss about the Midwest are the seasons. A bleak winter is always followed by the season of regeneration. Here in Nicaragua it is not quite the same illustration. We have four seasons to be sure. The problem is that the seasons are “hot”, “very hot”, “stupidly hot”, and “rain”.

But nonetheless, we can have hope in this horrible Winter of our world that Spring will come.

Now comes the question, “What’s next?” “How will this experience affect the rest of my life?” For those who have lost loved ones and friends, we can surely understand their lives will never be completely the same. But what about the rest of us. Will we change? Will it take more time to build the important aspects of our lives? Will we ever say again, “I just wish people would leave me alone?”

Probably sometimes we will. That might be a welcome sign of normalcy. The moment we realize that we are tired of all the renewed social activity. More importantly have we learned anything about our interconnected lives by having those connections ripped away?

In the mean time, hold onto those who are close. Revel in the thought that God has you in the hollow of his hand. Rejoice that this is a fleeting moment in the history of the world. Reflect the love of Christ to everyone you can.

Spring will come again. Rest in that hope. Spend your time wisely.

Thanks to all for your support in my personal family struggles. I appreciate you more than words can express.

Dios los bendiga

Adapt and Overcome

I have a friend who perfectly illustrates the military phrase I often hear old soldiers repeat when they come against a difficult situation. It simply is “Adapt and overcome.”

We have talked about this friend before. He has a kiosk near the central market. There you will find leather goods and hats. I think I have mentioned that I use one of his wallets. Business has not been good lately. He can’t even resupply as he would normally because he is taking what little profits he does have and buying food.

With the spreading awareness of our present pandemic, he has found a way to adapt and overcome. He found a supplier of washable, therefore reusable, masks. They are not your normal white or blue masks that are so popular here. Rather his come in a variety of bright colors. He sells them at a reasonable price. He cannot keep them in stock.

I see him often. He still practices his English with me. His English actually is quite good. Someone told him about the old movie serial “The Cisco Kid”. The sidekick, Pancho, had a contrived Hollywood Spanish accent. He says he doesn’t want to sound like Pancho. So he works very diligently on his diction and pronunciation.

The best thing about him is his faith. He talks about it all the time. I will often pass by his stand unnoticed in a taxi and find him reading his Bible. Taking comfort in its message. He has a rock solid faith. I am proud to call him a friend.

I think we can all take lessons from my friend. The corona virus has not only changed our daily habits and routines, it has forced us to adapt and overcome. We aren’t running around town as before. We are forced to measure our steps, count our blessings, and recalculate our priorities.

I hope you are overcoming. I hope you are adapting. I hope you have found what works for you and in that you will find peace. Remember it was Jesus who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

My friend is an overcomer. I am an overcomer. Not by anything we have. Not by any strength we possess. Not by our wits or wisdom. We are overcomers because we have faith in The Overcomer.

I hope you are an overcomer too.

Continue to pray for Nicaragua as we pray for you.

Dios los bendiga

He’s got this!

Rumors run amuck. New information swirls about in the whirlpool of confusion. Will they shut the market down? Will there be an enforced quarantine? What will happen to jobs? Television stations reporting outlandish news. Sides are forming. People are accusing others of lies.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Right now the situation in Nicaragua is critical. There is much speculation that the number of reported cases of the dreaded virus is significantly lower than the actual number of folks who are infected.

The good news is that many folks are taking precautions without the authorities telling them to do so. People are wearing masks. Hand sanitizer and chlorine basins are being provided at the grocery stores and pharmacies, our version of essential services.

But will that be enough? Is the onslaught about to begin? Only time will tell.

I will tell you that no matter what the situation, God is in control!

We are an uncommon people, we Christians. While our faith in no way protects us from the daily concerns and imminent threats that face others. The difference is that we have hope. We believe in something larger than our present condition. Something greater than our circumstances. We believe in a loving God who in spite of what is before us, has promised to hold us in the palm of his hand.

This is certainly a time when that faith has been, is, and will continue to be tested.

But that does not mean we can lose hope. I have heard of more people in my peripheral circle who have contracted Covid-19. These are folks with whom I do not regularly come into contact. However, it is still a concern that it seems my circle is closing in.

I have taken the necessary precautions. I am doing as little as humanly possible on the outside with groups of people. That doesn’t mean there is not risk. That doesn’t mean I or any of my friends are exempt from the possibility that this will reach us.

We have not given in. We will not give up. Not because of our personal strength or physical immunity. Rather because we have faith that God has the already taken care of the big picture. Our future is secure. Maybe not here with this current danger. But our hope is not in this world. We are fellow travelers moving towards our ultimate destination.

In short, don’t be careless. Don’t tempt fate. Don’t let your guard down. But do give the emotional burden to the One who created us and knows us best.

Not very long ago I was riding with a Nicaraguan friend and we were stopped by the police. The police officer was gruff and demanding. He spoke quickly and was very difficult to understand. He walked back to his radio, made some calls, then approached us again. I was concerned. I was unsure of the situation. I didn’t know what to do. My friend calmly looked at me, put his hand out in front of me, and said, “I’ve got this.” He handled it. I didn’t have to worry.

I am prone to use flowery words, analogies, and similes. But right now I just want to remind all of us, myself included, that we don’t have to worry, God has got this.

Never forget that.

I’ll keep you posted on this blog, but if there is new information I will tell you all when it happens and not wait for next Friday.

Selfishly I would ask a favor. While you are praying for your own family, your own situation, please offer up a prayer for my cousin. We just found out after a hospital visit, suspecting that he had the virus, that he has lung cancer. God’s got that too. But I still am asking you to pray.

I love you all very much.

Dios los bendiga

The Sick Teacher

This is not going to be a very long post. It’s quite simple, I know a man who has tested positive for the virus. He is the first infected person I have known here and is fighting for his life. He is alone, in quarantine not allowed to interact with anyone.

You see, it is standard practice to remove the sick persons’s phone and impede any visitors. This man is a dedicated teacher in one of our sister organizations here in Granada. I have worked with the director several times over the years and admire the work they are doing in one of our poorest barrios.

The teacher’s name is unimportant. He is the sole breadwinner for 17 family members. He is known for his compassionate zeal for the children he nurtures.

I can only imagine that there will be more like “the teacher” in the future, but for now, please lift up this stalwart in your prayers.

We have been praying here in Nicaragua for all of you in North America for weeks. Please take time and pray today that he might recover.

I am doing well. Most of my friends are continuing to self isolate. But right now we are asking for your prayers.

I will resume the weekly stories in my blog next week. But today I would like you to focus on my friend, the teacher.

Thank you.

Dios los bendiga


Beyond the statistics

I know I may be an odd ball, but I love mornings. That’s when I do my daily devotions. That’s when I have the most energy. And since none of my doctors are on the UnoMas mailing list, I’ll tell you that I love a cup of coffee.

My usual routine is to get up, turn the coffee maker on, work out with my bungee cords, take a shower, then sit by the open door, sip my joe and watch the early morning

Last week, I told you how it was a similar morning that I encountered a different friend. But in Granada, like your hometown, these are not normal times. Hustle and bustle have been replaced by lethargy and timidity. People do not greet each other like they used to do. They don’t stop for the impromptu conversations of which we have so often mused. Instead, I watch people walk slowly, methodically, never once lifting their eyes to those who pass.

Jefferson is one such person.

I have known Jefferson for over four years. He was one of the first people I encountered here. He worked at the “American Style” breakfast place. I would splurge sometimes on a Saturday and he would be there, along with his fellow workers. Real bacon, pretty good waffles, but alas, they did not have biscuits and gravy. It was still a good start to the day.

Jefferson struggled with English. At that time I struggled with Spanish. We still communicated. He wanted classes, but he did not have the time. He worked two jobs, one in the evening and his restaurant work in the morning. We were able to practice each other’s language whenever I went to eat. We also felt a certain affinity for each other because we shared part of a name.

I saw him, last week, walking down my street. His blue mask made him barely recognizable, yet somehow I did figure out who he was. I motioned for him to come to the door. He shook his head, no. I looked at him strangely, puzzled by his reticence. I yelled that he could stay two meters away. He simply yelled, “I can’t.”

Then I heard the cough.

My heart immediately sank. My mind raced. My whole body shivered.

Was my friend sick? Did he have the dreaded virus? What were my next steps? All of these questions swarmed around my brain like the pigeons on central square when someone throws a scrap of bread.

I asked him if he had the virus. He said he didn’t know. He said he was going to the hospital. I asked if he was walking. He said yes, so I gave him cab fare. We didn’t shake hands. We didn’t hug. I felt so helpless.

I asked him if he would let me know when he had results. He hasn’t, as of yet.

I have a few friends in the U.S. who I know have or have had the virus. But this was more personal. This was a real face. This was a friend I see often. This was in my backyard, or front street, to be more accurate.

I have been reporting to you every week that official cases are low. As of today, there have been under 10 deaths, officially. But I can’t help but believe that this is not the case. I can’t help but believe that there are more. But for now, that didn’t matter. What was important was that my friend here had a cough.

One of the problems of our information overloaded society is that sometimes we forget the faces behind the statistics. I hope this hasn’t happened to you. For every sick person, there is a face. For every statistic there is a soul.

I was reminded of that this week. It made me remember that the work we do here will ripple throughout time. Not because we are so great or glorious or generous but because we share love. No matter what becomes of any one of us, love is eternal.

There is so much uncertainty in our world. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring any more than you know. I don’t know if my friend is sick or just contending with a few allergies. I do know, however, that we connected. I do know that he knows that he has a friend. I do know that he knows that he will be prayed for. I do know that he knows that there is hope.

I love you all very much. Thank you for the ongoing encouragement.

Dios los bendiga.

Más o Menos

How are you? How are you doing? What’s up? These are common greetings in the English language. Most of us have a favorite. We tend to slip in old familiar phrases when we see someone we know.

I have a question for you. Do you really listen for the answer?

This world we live in is complicated enough without the isolation, confusion, fear, and uncertainty of the last few months. It is more important than ever to really listen to those around us.

In Spanish we do the same thing. I have gotten into the habit of a certain greeting as well. I generally will use the “todos bien?” Using the Nicaraguan accent it comes out more like “todo bien.” It basically means, “Is everything good?” The normal reply is usually a hard, “Si, todo bien, y usted?” Which of course is, “yes, everything is good, and you?”

It’s a mere formality. A greeting you give out of social custom followed up by a meaningless reply.

Every once in a while, however, somebody goes beyond the norm and tells you, “Mas o memos,” which is “more or less.” That’s when your ears perk up. Since it is so rare that we actually exchange feelings in our busy world, these words become a conversation starter.

That’s what happened this week.

I have a large house by Nicaraguan standards. It certainly is deep. The kitchen is far from the front door and often I cannot hear a knock on the door. I happened to be in the front of the house grabbing my garbage. I try to have it out by six in the morning.

Under different circumstances the street in front of my place would already be awake and dotted with passers by. People scurrying off to work or the market. Vendors might be yelling about their wares. Children would be dressed in their school uniforms, giggling and yapping as they walk. But these are not normal times.

This particular morning I only saw one person. It was a young woman. She was a girl I knew from one of the restaurants in town. She is the waitress-bartender at one of my favorites. I have not been there in a few weeks. I actually haven’t been much of anywhere in the past few weeks. Like you, I have been keeping my distance, measuring my trips, and carefully evaluating every decision to venture past my white iron gate. I rifled through my mental index cards to remember her name as she approached. Rosie, Mary, or was it Karen, I couldn’t remember and thought I would have to resort to a generic, “Hello.”

Just in time, I remembered. “Rosie, that’s it”, I thought, as I opened the lock to set my bag on the street. “Hola Rosie, todos bien?”, I called out.

She looked up, saw me, and instantly smiled, then lost that grin just as quickly as she had found it. “Hola Jeff. Mas o menos,” was her reply.

I asked her what was up, and she told me that the restaurant had closed. She seemed surprised that I hadn’t heard. I was surprised as well. I usually try to keep up on the town news, especially when it comes to restaurants, hostels and hotels, as they provide a good resource for my more advanced English students.

I asked her how she was doing. This time it wasn’t a formality. This time I wanted to know. This time I wanted to listen.

She said that she was afraid. She feared what would happen to her family. She feared the virus. She feared that she wouldn’t find another job. All were valid concerns. But all were questions that I could not answer.

My mind raced. What could I do? How could I help her? I finally told her to wait. I had bought some rice because I was low. At the time I was not sure why I had purchased two pounds. I was even more curious about why they had given me two bags. Usually the stand where I buy my rice fills and weighs the bags to order. This time, for some reason they had already prepared bags lying on the counter.

Now, I know why that happened. I ran back into the kitchen and picked up my “extra” bag. I returned and gave it to my friend. “It’s not much”, I said. She started crying. She tried not to take it at first. But I insisted and she then relented.

30 cents of rice will not be enough. I didn’t have any cash, so I couldn’t give her anything else.

I told her that I would let her know if I should hear about any opportunities for employment. I told her that I would pray for her. She cried again.

All of this happened because for some reason, at that particular moment, on that particular day, I was putting out my garbage and she was walking by. I don’t know how this story ends. I don’t know what will happen to Rosie and her family. I don’t have any pretty bows to tie up this package. But I do know what I can change in my own life.

Are we limited by the amount of contact we can have? Yes.

Are we then to live lives totally void of interaction? No!

I have harped on this point now for weeks. Being smart, being safe, avoiding physical contact does not mean the cessation of our connections. We are still in this together even though we are living separately.

Your computer sound system may force you listen more intently. Your video feeds may require you to look more diligently for nonverbal clues. Masks may hide real emotions. But all of these inconveniences only mean that we must try harder to get beyond the surface of our old ways of communicating.

I have been reading about what will happen after this crisis ends. I assure you it will end. I don’t know when. No one knows.

The question is: What happens next?

Will we be in some post apocalyptic Sci-fi novel where we have become so inured by our self isolation that it becomes the new normal?

I hope not. I pray we learn from this time of quarantine. I hope we remember how much we missed our friends. I hope we no longer take for granted the precious time we get to see each other in the flesh. I hope we never again minimize how important other people are in our lives.

Will I ever see another friend on the street and simply, cordially, robotically ask how they are doing? I don’t think I will. I hope you won’t either.

Every person who reads this blog is dear to me. The next time I see you (and I hope that is soon), tell me about your day when I ask. If something is wrong, I want to know. If something is great, tell me why. Whatever the answer, know that I really want to listen.

That’s what I am going to take from this wacky era in which we find ourselves. I hope you do as well.

Thank you for all the encouragement I have received. You all mean so much to me. Until we see each other again…

Dios los bendiga

Quarantine School

During this time of crisis in which we find ourselves, innovative methods of sharing God’s love with our partners, students and food recipients have to be found. Mass feeding programs, classrooms full of people, and large church gatherings are not safe for me or more importantly, the ones we serve.

One of the ideas we came up with was a modified version of distance learning. When I saw the impending quarantine, I decided to print as many of our study materials as possible. Workbooks, activity books, flash cards, whatever could be mustered, were printed and distributed to our families. I wasn’t sure how it would all work out, but I wanted to be as prepared as possible.

As previously stated, people stopped coming to large gatherings. Slowly the word got out that business as usual was not possible anymore. I was concerned that without guidance we would lose tremendous ground in our assault on education and poverty. Thankfully, miraculously this did not happen.

There is a family on the far west outskirts of Granada. It is typical in that the mother, father, and four children, one grandmother, two nieces, and a cousin reside in this shack of a domicile. Each provides what income they can. Each pitches in on the daily chores. There is always something on the wood campfire outside. Busyness engulfs the home like birds around a nest.

The grandmother was reticent in my presence at first. She has lived a long life and has seen white men come and go in her neighbor. All of them had big plans. Some did mountains of good at first. None of them persevered to the end. So the sight of another teacher was met with barely a nod, a barely audible “meh”, and a very nonchalant shrug.

Then I gave the children their books. It was to them, of course, Christmas in March. Each one grabbing and perusing and giggling, as I gave each their own material. One of the older boys riffled through his book and found a picture of Noah and his ark. He proudly showed it to me, pointed to one of the animals and said, “Elephant”. I smiled in approval, told him that he did a good job, and then the other kids started calling out different animal names.

“Tiger”, yelled one. “Lion”, said another. “Money”, the third chimed in. “Money, where do you see money?”

He pointed at the pair of monkeys pictured front and center of the drawing.

We went over the first lesson. I also talked to the parents about how important it was that they do something, anything, small or large every day. I explained how I would visit one time a week as long as I was allowed to travel. They tried to offer me some food, but I declined. I figured that the next few months would be difficult enough without me taking any nourishment from them. I told them I had food in my crock pot, which was true.

The next week, I ventured back to their little shack in order to check up on my students. They had each finished their assignments and were eager for me to grade them. I remember when I was young and couldn’t wait for that test when it was returned to me. I wasn’t always so happy after I got it back, but that is a different story.

I have been going back to their and almost 20 other homes, every week. I wear gloves and a mask. I take all necessary precautions. No hugs, no handshake, I come home, change clothes and shower after every visit. But we are still making a difference here. These families are consuming new information at astonishing rates. Folks are eager to learn.

I have been going to the family I spoke about for four weeks now. This time when I walked in the door, I was greeted by grandma. She had a sheepish grin, her eyes were lit with enthusiasm and she blurted out, “Hello, my name is Maria. How are you?” She said her scripted greeting and then hurriedly went back to her cooking.

I don’t know if the matriarch of the family will ever learn English. But it was her way of saying thank you.

This is my way of saying thank you. Your encouragement and support allows us to make the best of even these worst of times. I could not continue what I do without you.

I love you all very much. Be safe. Wash your hands. Stay connected.

Dios los bendiga

I Choose Not to be Bored

We are in semi-isolation here in Granada. The streets are barren. Many of the shops and restaurants are closed or reducing contact with their customers. We are greeted at the local supermarket with masked men armed only with spray bottles of chlorinated water. Our prepared food can be delivered to our door. Our conversations on Facebook and SMS are longer and more involved. The hustlers and vendors still line our commercial street, yet they now have bandanas covering their faces and are wearing gloves.

There maybe less isolation than you are experiencing, if you live in the U.S. or Canada or Europe or China. But for us here in Nicaragua, it is a huge change. You see, this week is what we call Semana Santa or Holy Week. It is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Nicaraguans are off work and flock to the beaches. Whether it be on one of the coasts or to our own Lake Nicaragua beaches here in Granada. It’s a family time. It’s a party time. Think of Memorial Day or July 4th (if you’re from the States) stretching five days into the week.

It is the hottest time of the year here, so we have had days where we climb well over 40 degrees (about 104 in Fahrenheit). The water is a great respite for the muggy climate. Baskets full of food, ziplock bags of Koolaid, and beer are staged along the lakeshore. I like the word “frolic” and it is the best word to describe what the children do as they run in and out of the water. I love watching that dance performed by the toddlers who are experiencing waves for the first time. A ballet beginning with fear, followed by the “en pointe” tiptoe of timidity, crescendoing with courage, resulting in pure joy. Yes, sometimes there are tears. But it always a joy to watch.

All of that is not a reality for most families now. Like you, normality has been thrown out the hermetically sealed window. Banality, once shunned, is our new reality.

That isn’t always so bad though. Except for the few pictures of idiots fighting each other for toilet paper, I believe that this for most, has become a time of self examination. Kindness appears to be reemerging as we begin to think how truly connected we are in the human race. The cashier who has swiped your food for years without exchanging a word now asks how you are doing. You might have received a message from that college friend you haven’t seen in years. Last month you didn’t have much time for the new, the original. We were spinning our webs of activity, taking names, writing notes, working on project teams but not connecting.

Don’t let this opportunity run by you. Take the time you never had before to do the things you dreamed of doing. Write a novel. Sing a song. Read to your children. My dad would always look at me strangely when I told him I was bored. He thought that ennui was the curse of the uninventive. I learned quickly not to tell my mother of any boredom. She would find something for me to do, and it usually was housekeeping related.

As I have said, and as those who are acquainted with me know, I am a people person. I love hearing chattering voices, clattering glasses, tinkling silverware and children’s laughter. Solitude is not where I shine. But in this self imposed sentence in the prison where there are no other inmates, I have become even more appreciative of you, my friends.

The work goes on here. I have visited several of my students. I use all the technology available to us and teach the classes I can teach. Masked and gloved, we gave out food to people at church. We still have a small Bible Study on Wednesdays. I have a small group of friends that have similarly sequestered themselves which I have deemed “safe”. But for the most part, I stay at home. Praying that this pandemic goes quickly. Hoping that my loved ones are spared. Hoping that your loved ones are spared. Knowing this mess that we are in can end in two ways. One is to sink into the pit of bitterness. The other is to use this time, time we never had, time we wasted on other endeavors, to look for ways that we can improve and ways that we can better serve those around us.

I love you all dearly. If I haven’t told you that lately, expect to hear it soon. Be safe. Wash your hands. Do something creative.

Dios los bendiga