The Great Pause

Shelter in Place COVID-19
Sandi Troup – Everyone Dies Producer

This morning’s paper has news of our county’s first positive case after a long (surprisingly slow) wait for it’s appearance in our region. We had been largely unaffected in my small rural Midwest town. The impacts of the virus has seemed so far away even as it moved through New York and the West Coast. Schools have been closed since mid-March, and my town has been encouraging limited activity, but it wasn’t until last night that my state announced the decision to have a “Shelter In Place Order” starting Monday.

At the hospital I work at, we have been hard at work standing up telemedicine technology, mobilizing our local university, robotics teams and technical schools to 3D print masks and face shields as we prepare for the inevitable surge (expected a month from now) to max out our limited resources.  My work life has been consumed by preparations for the virus as it marches into our region.

However in the middle of this, I see beauty emerging from the precautions we are taking to limit the virus’ spread.  I’ll call it the “Great Pause.”

Nearly eight years ago, my family had an opportunity to pack our bags (two each in fact!) and spend over three years in Kenya.  It was a suspension of the busy lifestyle we were used to.  My husband was working 50-60 hours a week as a department head and coach at a prestigious high school, I was splitting my time between working as a nurse and numerous volunteer activities.  We also had a full slate of ministry activities on the weekends.  We were busy!  My son was at the precious formative age of 11. 

We found ourselves transferred to a place where relationships were valued more than the clock.  (Sometimes frustratingly so – it was more common than not for people to show up an hour late to a meeting!)  But for our family it was a wonderful change of pace.  We had to homeschool.  My son got to be a part of everything we did, from ministry to raising chickens and gardening, to tearing down our Land Rover to keep it running in the super-sticky mud of the rainy season.  We started each morning together talking and sharing, and with the lack of dependable broadband, watched the same movies over and over again at night.  I watched my son mature to someone confident in his capabilities to find creative solutions, socially adaptable, and part of a cohesive family unit. 

When he reached high school age, and I also felt I needed to come home for medical reasons, we hoped to retain this lifestyle when we returned to the USA.  But like a leaf drifting lazily in still, deep waters only to be snatched by accelerating flow near a riffle – our lives quickly changed as we got drawn once again into work, school, and ministry activities.

For the first time in ages, our nation is getting to experience a bit of what we did in Kenya.  We’re rediscovering how to interact with each other as a family, have meals together, playing board games, making skits and crafts and other creative self-distractions instead of scheduling out every moment of our days.  My hope is that in between frustrations caused by social distancing and being trapped with the same people, managing remote school and work, and the innate fears caused by spread of the virus, we will learn something, and learn to treasure it.  Let us carry it forward in the time to come, O Survivors of the Great Pause!

Marianne wanted me to share this beautiful poem Pandemic , written by Lynn Ungar.  If you visit the site, composer Martin Sedek has also made a beautiful choral piece of it, sung by a social-distanced choir. 

Pandemic by Lynn Ungar
“Pandemic” by Lynn Ungar. http://www.lynnungar.com/poems/pandemic/

What have you learned in our lockdown?  Please share your comments!

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1 comment
  • I love that life has slowed down to allow more people to focus on family, quality of life, and self care.

    So many lessons to be learned in the stillness if we allow it.

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