About a month ago, my mom and I built a bed.
By “built a bed,” I mean we unpacked all the parts that the Lowe’s truck delivered in several boxes, and we unfolded and smoothed out the (lengthy!) instructions, and we ordered lattes with extra shots, and then turned up some Eric Church and George Strait and set about putting together a new double-sized platform bed for Curly Girl.
It took four hours. And that isn’t because we made mistakes. Or got lost or took long breaks. It’s because it was tedious. Dear. Lord. was it tedious. There were so many small pieces. And so many parts that had to be put together in certain ways so that other parts could then be brought in. At least 10 times I wanted to give up, especially when the instructions said to do something that just didn’t make sense. I could not for the life of me understand why we were putting together sides before base, or cross pieces before corner pieces. Ugh. There were some bad moments. Also some colorful language.
About midway through the four hours, when we’d once again been surprised by the order of things working out, we decided that from then on, we would not try to figure out what was ahead. We would just do what the instructions said to do and admit that there were just things we did not know yet.
(Side note: My mother and I neither one are big fans of “not knowing yet.” Uncertainty is not our forte.)
But time and time again we’d try to get ahead or guess what was next, and every time we were sorry we had.
We just didn’t know yet.
It’s day 4 of quarantine here in Louisville and already, all around us, there’s talk of what the world will look like on the other side of COVID-19. Of how it will shape us for the next generation. Of how it will change the trajectories of persons and communities and economies. No one’s being asked to fight the Nazis, and so I hesitate to draw too much comparison to active global conflict, but I do think we are in the sort of uncharted, life-changing, destiny-making waters that can most assuredly make us or break us, that will change the face of parts of the world as we know them.
I’d like to think that we will, to a person, heed our better angels and let this transform our lives for good. I’d like to believe that on the other side of this is tremendous blessing because we will have learned once again what it means to depend upon each other for our very lives.
But the truth is that we just don’t know yet. So much is uncertain. And, y’all–my mom and I are not the only ones who don’t do uncertainty well.
What I do know is this: my heart breaks for those who have already lost someone they love to this virus; for those whose livelihoods are at risk; for those who do not have the buffers that I do of a flexible and supportive employer and plenty of food and a comfortable house to quarantine in. My heart breaks for high school seniors watching their best moments slip by; for cancelled weddings; for mom and pop businesses that will not survive; for children for whom no school means academic regression and daily hunger.
My heart breaks, because no matter what happens, lives are being changed minute-by-minute and we simply cannot know where it will all lead.
But I also I know this: that local cable companies are trying to get internet to low income families so they can keep up with schoolwork; that local energy companies are waiving late fees and disconnects; that folks are rallying around cries for diapers and medicine and even food; that celebrities are hosting online “story hours,” putting their skills to good use by reading children’s books so exhausted moms and dads can take a break from their new role as homeschoolers.
What I know is that Mr. Rogers was right and the very best thing we can do in terrifying times, when we just don’t know yet, is to look for the helpers.
And y’all. There are helpers everywhere.
And there is music being made. And art being imagined. And stories being written. And neighbor helping neighbor.
And if in this horrid, scary, lonely time we discover the truth that we were, after all, built for relationship, and so commit to one another and our communities in new ways, well…I won’t be sad about that. Not even a little.
We just don’t know yet.
And so we go day-by-day, following instructions as they are given, throwing on some good music and maybe drinking a little extra coffee, knowing sometimes it’s gonna be tedious, perhaps spending a little more time on our knees in prayer, and trusting that together, somehow, we will get through this.
Maybe even be better for it.