If you are reading this article and are a parent of school-aged children, you must be taking a recess break! My guess would be that you and one of your children just finished watching an online video from your child’s teacher. Maybe you just took a break from RAZ kids, or finished uploading a completed assignment to Seesaw. Either way, you, the parent-turned-teacher, are exhausted already. Your other children are asking questions about their assignments. You need a break, so you’ve made an executive decision: it’s recess time.
I am typically the guy who hops on the train of pithy, applicable articles during any worldwide event, looking for “7 Things We Can Learn from. . . .” I can usually write words of comfort that are “shareable” and “likeable.” This time, this was not the case. As we entered into the first days of the devastating catastrophe that is COVID-19 here in Canada, I began to process it as I typically do, by writing.
In the first week of April, I interviewed an Alberta emergency room physician, an emergency room nurse, a unit nurse and a primary care paramedic for an Easter-based sermon I was working on. Seeing news reports depicting these incredible souls work at the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic made me curious about what drove them. Who are these people that so willingly step toward the danger and choose to touch those no one else will touch?
Caution – doors are now closing. This pithy phrase, oft-repeated on trains, aptly describes our reality today. With the spread of coronavirus, international travel is shuddering to a halt. Borders are swinging shut. In March, Canada closed its borders to international arrivals with the belated exception of non-essential American citizens. Caution – borders are now closing. Mind the gap!
We’ve been locked in our apartment complex for many weeks. The last day of school and work for most of the city was January 17. We’re living in such strange times. And yet, right now I hear birds outside my window, on the 25th floor. I used to think there weren’t really birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. Turns out they were just crowded out by traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.
One morning this week, in the midst of the COVID-19 chaos, I woke at dawn. The night had been filled with anxious dreams and the endless rearranging of pillows under my head. I checked the clock and realized I’d barely managed four hours of sleep. I felt lousy. Once downstairs in the kitchen I sat down at my laptop. Like so many others, my office is closed and I am working from home. The few hours before anyone else is up are wonderfully quiet, and with a cup of tea I was ready to face my inbox.
In late February, instead of working out a public conversation of the complex issues of the Wet’suwet’en blockades, mainstream news articles quickly turned toward the easier path of how the protests were affecting the popularity of the Prime Minister. Even the news of the SNC-Lavalin scandal last year focused on its impact on voters rather than on what citizens should properly expect of governmental leaders.
Footage of the drone-fired missile strike on January 3 that obliterated Iranian general Qasem Suleimani instantly triggered a memory of World War II, when I was five years old in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Vividly engraved on my mind’s eye is the image of a large dead farm animal in our neighbour’s barn, “assassinated” by a bayonet-wielding “White Russian” soldier who had wandered up the river dike at Langerak, our village of refuge during the waning of the war.
In the second week of March, Joel Koops, Steve Bosman and Dave Caputo gathered round a strategy table, exchanging information on COVID and wondering how to keep their workers employed. Then they asked each other: “What can we do to help?” The three men own Trusscore, a material science company that manufactures building products such as wall and ceiling panels as well as pipes.
There once was a world that had lost its way. Everyone was moving so fast that they forgot to look around. People didn’t notice each other. Some were blinded by consumerism. Others distracted by pleasure. Some idolized work and worried about the next thing. Others sought power, position and wealth. And everyone, it seemed, shared a common problem – all that should matter in life didn’t matter enough. People failed to notice the fragility of their existence.
God has given Rose and me a grand and full life on his earth, with all kinds of adventures and experiences that have taken us to many nations, new cultures. We’ve eaten lots of different foods, endured unpredictable dangers and suffered tropical illnesses. Yet never have we seen reports of illness invading entire nations and communities within weeks as we have with this corona virus.
As I write this, I am sitting in my house with my wife and dog and son. We have not been outside for a few days. We are watching a lot of Netflix. We are taking a lot of video conference calls for work. It’s not so bad yet, but cabin fever is going to set in soon. And we are healthy, so far. This is what life has been like for us, in Canada, in the first few days of the social distancing phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.