“Get It While We Can”, Coronavirus Diary, March 17, 2020

“Get It While We Can”, Coronavirus Diary, March 17, 2020 March 17, 2020

And yet, I understand the “Get it while we can” urge. Scarcity has been part of human existence from the beginning. There is always something scarce. But we leave out the poor, the hungry, and the naked. They can’t get it at all.

the bad pot now cleaned out
The bad pot–now cleaned out

I nearly went under while reading the newspapers today. An article about what the novel coronavirus does to the body finally put me over the edge.

I put down the newspapers, tidied the kitchen, and headed outside. It’s gray and damp today with rain expected, but I could work for a while, mostly on my knees, and let my mind go free to ponder, permitting the posture to encourage contemplative prayer.

I tackled a pot that had gone bad, i.e, no longer able to drain water. Any gardener knows this is the death knell for plants. Most can tolerate a bit of underwatering, but roots sitting in water will rot.

Only one solution here: empty the entire pot and start over. Easy with a small container–a bit more difficult with one weighing at least 100 lbs, now worse because of the soggy dirt.

Slowly, I moved into the messy, backbreaking job, filling pail after pail with water-soaked soil, and emptying them in spots that could take on more dirt without problems.

Get it while we can

I soon found the problem: a tree root had made its way through the drain hole and blocked it. A little help from my husband later, I have a pot ready to fill again with good soil, and then replant.

As I worked, I surveyed the yard–a real mess right now as there are two Live Oak trees in our small front yard. Each year, at the end of winter, they deposit millions–seriously–millions of leaves all over the lawn and garden beds. Between my work and that of our faithful yardman, bag after bag, stuffed full of those leaves, have been picked up, destined for the city composting facilities.

And there are still more to come—nothing like abundance. Soon shall emerge what I call the “squigglies” but are technically called “catkins,” the male flower that will cover the yard at least two inches thick when they fall.

Every year, struggling with the endless spring cleanup chores required by these fabulous, irreplaceable, shade trees, I find myself awed by nature’s abundance. The same happens in the fall when thousand of acorns bring another burst of raking, bagging, composting.

Surely this kind of abundance reflects the nature of God and God’s love for all. And yet, I understand the “Get it while we can” urge. Scarcity has been part of human existence from the beginning. There is always something scarce. But we leave out the poor, the hungry, and the naked. They can’t get it at all.

I’ve read many stories about living in Russia during Soviet times when everything was indeed scarce. People would see a line forming and just get in it, not sure what they might be getting at the end, but figure they could trade whatever it was for something they might need.

Right now, some are genuinely afraid they won’t get adequate food, and a lot are scared they won’t have toilet paper. Now, once supply chains catch up, there really is plenty of food AND toilet paper. But there is something we can’t get.

We can’t “Get it while we can” with medical care

Increasingly, news reports are making it clear: we DON’T have adequate medical facilities. There is a severe scarcity of ventilators, way, way too commonly needed to give people time to recover from the kind of pneumonia that springs from a Covid-19 patient.

We can’t do a “get it while we can” run on medical care. That’s the whole point behind the current push to get people home and staying there: we must flatten the infection curve so we don’t run a scarcity in the medical world.

My husband and I are doing as asked: major self-isolation. Because of our ages, the risk of fatality, and/or extended need of medical care is far more likely for us than for most. Plus, if, against all the odds, we are infected, we want nothing to do with passing it onto others.

"Get it while we can" leaves out the poor, hungry and nakedAs I continued my work in the yard this morning, I saw many more walkers than usual, but the typical groups of two or three women, walking and talking, instead had them about 15 feet from each other.

Dads and their kids were riding bikes. People waved from the streets but did not stop to talk. An Amazon Prime truck drove up for deliveries across the street.

We’ll likely be fine. We have the means to “get it while we can.” But what about those stuck in small apartments with suddenly unemployed parents, growing fear as bills pile up, and also without the knowledge or equipment to home-school their children? How can people keep “social distance” when living in crowded, inadequate housing facilities?

I fear a significant uptick of domestic violence, drug, and alcohol abuse incidents. And an uncontrolled spread of the virus among the poorest in our midst.

“Get it while we can” means nothing there: there is nothing to get.

We’ve left them naked and unclothed, hungry and unfed, sick and uncared for.

The cataclysm is just beginning. In the end, this virus will spur a giant social upheaval in the US.

Perhaps this, above all, will wake us up to this fact. An economy and government that does not work actively to make sure every person has access to at least basic health and wellness care, as well as good food and decent housing, will eventually destroy itself.

We’re darn near close.

Photo credits: Melinda * Young on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND
(c) Christy Thomas, scripture from NRSV.

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