I was weeping last night after watching the news again. I don’t know why I keep doing it; watching the news. Well actually I do know why I do it. I do it because I don’t want these four walls to give me a false sense of security. I don’t want to be living my best life in this nice comfortable apartment where I can afford to work from home because I have job security. No. I never want to be able to shut out the world and bide away the time until I can come out of my cocoon and move on with my life.
I know that there are hundreds, thousands for whom it is not business as usual. There are people mourning, communities devastated and economies heaving under the pressure of this Corona Virus crisis. So I sit down and I take in the news and I leave my heart open to grieve and fully process those people whose lives have been turned into statistics and body counts. I cannot lose my empathy even though my soul is tired of grieving. Sigh. It really is tired of grieving.
Yet there’s something about this that feels familiar. Something about this anxiety, panic and helplessness that feels almost like Deja Vu. As I lifted up my heart to the Lord to cry for mercy for this world it hit me. I have prayed this prayer before. As I prayed for a helpless people whose lives were being devastated by this disease. I remembered the helplessness I’d seen in children’s eyes as they told me they had been raped. They too had had their lives torn apart by a terrifying evil that threatened their very future. As I prayed for people facing anxiety about finding food in the shops I remembered all those people who visited the Social Justice office of my former employment daily. They were people for whom finding food was a daily struggle.
As I prayed for the people who felt trapped and isolated in quarantine, I remembered the women who had been trapped and isolated by abusive spouses. Women who had no contact with their family anymore, who suffered in silence, unseen by many.
I’d felt this grief before. Body counts from the plane crushes caused by greedy corporates. Body counts from Ebola. The more I sit and look at this crisis the more familiar some of these issues ring for me. When I think of enforced quarantine I remember the millions of people currently enslaved around the world. People whose every movement is restricted under threat of death.
I sit here tempted to compare body counts. Tempted to put the grief of the rich versus the grief of the poor. I’m tempted to compare the grief of the white body death count and how the world reacts to it versus the death count of black bodies. I’m so tempted to shout about the inconsistency in how we see the pain of the rich verses the pain of the poor.
Just when the anger is about to overcome me, the grief returns and reminds me that there is no need to compare. My heart cannot pick and choose when to have compassion because then it’s not compassion. The injustice of the death of the oppressed that are not even mourned hurts my soul but that doesn’t make the cry of the bereaved in this crisis less legitimate. I only hope that just as we are learning to weep today, we will weep for the poor when we hear of their pain. I desperately hope that when all this is said and done we will remember the panic we felt at finding empty shelves and donate to a food shelter because other people are living in that panic,maybe that’s what this is all about. Maybe we just needed to remember that whatever we are feeling now has been an even worse reality of many people all over the world. My heart is heavy and sad tonight. But my heart has been sad and heavy before. It is the same script with a different cast. Maybe this time will be different and maybe this time we will learn to never be okay with anyone’s pain, anyone’s fear, anyone’s grief or anyone’s struggle. Maybe…