“You know what people are missing as they hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer? They are missing that our lives are gifts. We are blessed to ever be here in the first place. Everything we have in life is a blessing. Our families. Our homes. Our jobs. You may think you earned it all, but none of it would be without a loving God who created you and the world.”
An Uber driver told me this. On one of my last Uber rides for a while, I suspect. He is Muslim and seemed to have some real peace about him as he drove me to Catholic Mass, the same day that Mass cancellations became a thing here in the United States. I knew it was happening in Rome, but, gosh, it sure did seem to happen here quick.
I read one testimony from a Christian American woman in Wuhan, who reflected on her time in quarantine at the 48-day mark. She, her family and her neighbors have experienced community like never before. They know each other better, make room for each other with more sensitivity.
I also keep thinking about a man named Patrick who gave me a hug outside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral not too long ago. I can’t help but wonder what is happening to Patrick today. He had talked to me about maybe going to see folks at Catholic Charities, but he told me how he prefers sleeping on the street rather than a homeless shelter. He told me about the beautiful sleeping bag someone had given him as a gift — “it really keeps you warm!” — that was stolen at one of the shelters. It’s colder, but generally safer on the streets, he’s concluded. Every time I hear people talk about staying home and self-quarantining, I think of Patrick. How does Patrick take care of himself in these circumstances? Now that many of our lives are being upended, might we care to think a bit more about the likes of Patrick? Might we pray and find out what we might do to help support services that make sure people like Patrick aren’t overlooked in a health crisis?
People like Patrick make a real impression on me because, despite their challenges and the cold brutal reality of their lives, they have a spirit of gratitude and goodness about them. Patrick seems to have hope. I obviously don’t know his whole story and all its complications, but there seems a simplicity about him, of the kind we could all afford to rediscover.
Another conversation I had as everything was starting to shut down was with an 80-year-old man named Dennis. He told me about his adult son, Michael, who had a good job but eventually lost it because of Crohn’s disease. Dennis told me that while he is applying for government assistance, there’s nothing yet. But government assistance isn’t what Dennis wants for his son; Dennis wants him to know he is loved. “I’m not going to get a job at my age and my skills anywhere,” he says. And so, he drives for Uber. “And I can’t stop,” he tells me. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if everything really shuts down.”
There are people truly struggling on a good day, financially, trying to fulfill their obligations and have some semblance of a healthy life with healthy relationships. Will this time of coronavirus help us see each other and help each other? This is a time that should change us. Our lives may not be what we thought they were. Our sense of security may have been completely unfounded. If we are Christians, do we really trust in God alone, or have those just been words we have occasionally said in rote prayer?
For how much of our lives have we heard the saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? That seems crass at a time with such a dangerous virus spreading and taking lives. But during this religious season of Lent, at the time of the change in the seasons, too, this virus that is changing the way we live for months can also give us new life.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.