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The Strangest of Times….

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In contradistinction to Mr. Dickens’ classic opener, from a historical perspective, this is neither the best of times nor the worst of times…. But it sure is one of the strangest of times.

It seems the whole world is now sequestered at home eating top ramen and counting how much toilet paper they have left, while watching daily press conferences by Heads of State who are now speaking with great authority on complex subjects that maybe none of them had ever even heard of 3 months ago, subjects which they almost certainly never studied in school.  Hundreds of millions, half a billion?, a billion? people are (not) working from home while trying to navigate uncharted waters with their children (not) studying from home.   And everyone is glued to their cellphones, tablets, computers, and television sets as if their lives depend upon making sense of graphs and charts of the stock market (that look like a cross section of the Himalayas), or the price of oil ( which looks like the trajectory of the sofa someone just pushed out the window), and certainly tracking the numbers of “new cases and recovereds”, of “severe/criticals “and deaths from a disease still less common than rabies…While, everywhere people are wearing masks for reasons they are unclear on, making sure they stay well over an arm’s length away from neighbors, colleagues, and strangers ( unless packed like sardines in blocks long lines at the local bank or supermarket).  Shaking hands has become a social affront while secreting that precious bottle of Purell® in one’s pocket as if it were liquid gold (while wishing you had some of that too) has become the new normal.

Tell me these aren’t the strangest of times.

Although often in recent years I have been enjoined, exhorted, browbeaten, … encouraged to write a blog, I have somehow abstained, in part because I had always (perhaps uninformedly) associated blogs with guys who wear pajamas and flipflops while carrying their pillows around in airports (not my particular tribe), or housewives with helpful hints for getting those pesky tea stains out of your best blouse, recipes for pineapple upside down cake, and how to write the most sensitive thank-you card (issues they are clearly light-years beyond me on).  But more importantly, heretofore most of my every waking hour was consumed by the tyranny of the urgent:  the next broken and hurting patient, the next administrative debacle, the next social engagement, obligatory or voluntary, and rarely the next happy respite with family & friends… in short, with life.  I simply could not imagine spending an extra hour every other overcommitted day collecting and writing down my scattered thoughts and observations… or that anyone else should be particularly interested in reading them.  But, these are the strangest of times.

I now find myself in an empty Operating Room, in an over-quiet Mission Hospital on the edge of the jungle looking out the window on a beautiful sun-kissed, empty Caribbean Sea.  Our patients, the broken and hurting, for now at least, are being blocked by uneasy military & police cordons from getting to us on the otherwise empty highways and byways.  We here at Loma de Luz have actually been preparing for Covid-19 for > 2 ½ months. From the Hospital on one end to the School on the other, a really exceptional group of people have done a really exceptional job of preparing.  But for some critical supplies and materials we are working and praying to get flown in around the blockades, we are about as ready as we can get.  So the administrative debacles are down to a dull roar. The social commitments? If you don’t count yet another Covid-19 Action Group Meeting, or our semi-clandestine Thursday Night missionary prayer meeting (we made sure the mayor signed off on)…..our social calendar is about as bare as the shelves on all of the shuttered grocery stores in La Ceiba.  And our families? except for Rosanne who is stuck here with me, they are sadly out of reach; scattered and sequestered in that darkened land across an empty ocean.

So this is the calm before the storm.  We’ve run all of the numbers we can find, and any way you cut it……those clouds on the horizon are going to bring a STORM to these shores.

I hope to let you know how it goes.  But first…..maybe tomorrow I’ll share some of the writings of some of our missionaries, some of the preparations we’ve done, some ingenious, some a little quixotic, some kind of funny…. But all the best we could do here………in His service.