In 1962 Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring,” when the robins and other birds stopped singing, due to pesticide poisoning in the environment. It is almost Spring in Central Texas and hopefully the birds will not be silent. But it will be quieter than usual in Waco people are, somewhat reluctantly, taking time out due to COVID-19. To their dismay, Waco residents are going to have to live alone for at least a couple of weeks—perhaps much longer. We may be isolated but it will not be silent: there will the incessant and persistent TV commentators with increasingly bad news; newspapers and magazines will continue to report Covid-19 cases, deaths, and problems with the government; robo-calls will continue and sirens will sound in the distance. On the other hand, we won’t need to jostle for toilet paper (it’s all gone) and hand sanitizers (the shelves are empty), crowded lines at the supermarket (social distancing is in place), or trying to find a parking space somewhere. People, or at least old ones like us, are asked to stay home and actually—we have heard—they have begun to talk to one another!
Of course, it can be a frightful experience. Imagine that you have been married for several years and have hardly had to talk to your spouse—a feat that I have never experienced. In such cases, both may have their individual activities, friends, books, and favorite TV shows. But if you really need someone to talk to and your buddies are sequestered at home with their favorite clubs, bars, and restaurants—or even churches—quarantined, you may need a different plan. You may rent movies, but unless you tolerate violence, cursing, sex and sin, you probably have seen all the “good” ones
You may wait anxiously for the mail and then try not to respond to requests from St. Jude’s, the Salvation Army, 125 different agencies wanting help for the destitute, pictures of old dogs and cats, wounded and paralyzed veterans and, of course, those agencies needing assistance for various body organs. You will have to turn most of requests down and you may then feel cruel, unresponsive, even un-Christian. And you can’t go to Australia or Greenland to get away from it all—no country will let you in, even if you could afford to go—and it is probably not wise to consider cruise ships.
I have found a solution—it will not suit everyone—but it is built on experience. Go to a room where there is no one else, not even a dog or cat, pick up a book and read it. It doesn’t have to be the Bible, but that would be a good place to start. Read for a while and then take notes. Yes, write! Generally, when you read the Bible you will find things that confuse, startle and even challenge you. Write them down, and now comes the most frightening suggestion: show them to someone, your spouse—if you are lucky enough to have one. But don’t just show the comments to the person—ask what he or she thinks.
If you can’t think of something to ask, start with the footnotes in Genesis in any study Bible. Ask if the person knows that the Hebrew words for “man” and “woman” have similar sounds and that the Hebrew words for “ground” and “man” have similar sounds as well. They may say, “so what?” but could possibly generate some interest and it will certainly foster a hard look at you.
Of course, that is the dangerous part: he or she may get interested in the topics and begin to question you about some of your comments. It may get very personal and terrifying, much like when your pastor asked you the names of the 12 disciples or 12 tribes of Israel. You may have to stall for time, which you now have plenty of
This is the fourth day of our self-imposed quarantine and it may turn into a long week. I ask my wife: “Would you like to watch something on TV?” We don’t have cable, so what about “Southern Fried Homicide,” which is one notch above Dr G, the woman who does autopsies, cracking the sternum and ribs with a giant set of hedge clippers. The shows have enough intrigue and blood to keep us clutching one other for comfort. I realize however, this can’t go on for another week or two. We could scratch one another and would soon run out of band aids and can’t go to the store for more.
However, I know that HEB does home deliveries, although we would probably need to order more than band aids. Perhaps we can order frozen dinners and bottled water. Then it will be safe to get back to our TV shows.
On a more serious side, this is time for reflection: I will be 87 next month and Joice will be 89 in May, then on the 26th of May we hope to celebrate our 64th wedding anniversary. We are old and candidates for coronavirus—we also have medical “issues.” Regardless, we are unlikely to die healthy—not many people do! We follow our usual retired custom: we read and pray together each day, thanking God for the day as a gift. We pray and think about our family, our friends, our church, our neighbors, the wounded and the weary, the persecuted and the forgotten, non-believers, even our enemies. We joke, we look at old pictures, we email, we phone our children, we go for walks (the Y is out for now) and do the normal things of life. I write stories (some are funny), I paint pictures (most are funny), I try not to sleep much during the day (that can be funny) and I often recite Psalm 50:14: “Let the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God and give the Almighty all that you promised.”
We do not lack toilet paper and soap and I admit that I stocked up on ice cream (2 half gallons). Hopefully, it will not be a long nor a too quiet Spring and hummingbirds will soon be here.
Day 4 and counting, March 2020
Karl and Joice Franklin