Seeking Joy While Sheltering in Place

March 29, 2020

Making Do With Leftovers

March 29, 2020

Powerless and Needing Power

March 29, 2020
Dallas skyline
Preparing barbecue brisket
Dr. George Mason

Are you as confused as I am about the day and the date? It’s all a blur and there is nothing to mark the passage of time except by the increasing daily numbers of coronavirus cases. People don’t go to work or school on weekdays; we don’t go out on Saturday night. Whether your Sunday included worship or brunch or pro sports on TV, there is little different about the first day of the week when everything is closed down all the time.

But I need structure in my life, and I need a Sabbath. There is nothing external to provide discipline, so long as I don’t run afoul of social distancing rules. Eleven days into almost-total isolation, I am only beginning to impose some order in my own life. My mind has been too scattered, too overwhelmed by the stress of hygiene and sanitation on the one hand and the need for food on the other. And if I am here alone (thankful under the circumstances that not another living soul has set foot in my apartment since I arrived), what difference does it make if I dress or change sheets or wash clothes or bathe or mop the floor? I hardly remember that it’s the end of the month and bills need to be paid.

I had a scare this morning that reminded me of how very alone and vulnerable I am. The power went out in the building. My mind traveled quickly to worst-case scenarios. I’m on the 15th floor. I haven’t climbed a flight of stairs since I fractured my leg in December. The front desk didn’t answer the phone. I suppose the phone system went down. No communication. No easy way out. At least I had had two cups of coffee, and I could survive awhile on peanut butter and saltine crackers. Having lived in hurricane country so long, I checked my flashlights. The batteries were good. I had two candles and a gas lighter, a charged laptop and phone, an iPad with a rundown battery; but I knew I had to conserve that power. At least I have some experience. I have been without power for days after a hurricane. You don’t open the refrigerator door. I have no ice. What if my stock of food spoiled at a time when it’s risky to go to the grocery store? Both literally and figuratively, I was powerless.

After about 45 minutes, the power came back on. I needed to worship. I thought of the song I sang as a child, hands together in prayer:

This is the way we go to church, go to church, go to church;
This is the way we go to church so early Sunday morning.

 I googled the lyrics, thinking the seven verses might give me an order to my weeks…not a bad idea. This is basically the way my mother spent her days—washing, ironing, sewing and mending, sweeping, scrubbing and cooking.

Here we go round the Mulberry Bush
The mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
Here we go round the Mulberry Bush
So early in the morning

This is the way we wash our clothes
Wash our clothes
Wash our clothes
This is the way we wash our clothes
So early Monday morning

This is the way we iron our clothes
Iron our clothes
Iron our clothes
This is the way we iron our clothes
So early Tuesday morning

This is the way we mend our clothes
Mend our clothes
Mend our clothes
This is the way we mend our clothes
So early Wednesday morning

This is the way we sweep the floor
Sweep the floor
Sweep the floor
This is the way we sweep the floor
So early Thursday morning

This is the way we scrub the floor
Scrub the floor
Scrub the floor
This is the way we scrub the floor
So early Friday morning

This is the way we bake our bread
Bake our bread
Bake our bread
This is the way we bake our bread
So early Saturday morning

But the words of the final stanza have changed, which unintentionally illustrates how drastically America’s values and customs have changed in the 70 years or so since I sang this.

This is the way we get dressed up,
Get dressed up,
Get dressed up
This is the way we get dressed up,
So early Sunday morning

But when I think about it, this final stanza does not describe the typical American today either. We dressed up to go to church when I was growing up. In fact, Saturdays were spent getting ready for Sunday. We washed and rolled our hair (pin curls secured with bobbie pins), we polished our shoes, and Mama gave herself a manicure. Sundays are generally casual these days, whether or not we go to church.

Somehow, I drew comfort this morning when I livestreamed worship from Wilshire Baptist Church. There was longtime pastor George Mason in his suit, white starched shirt and tie, preaching from the pulpit of an empty church. I had never worshiped this way before, and I didn’t expect to fully engage. I had downloaded and printed out the order of service, and I sat, transposed to my pew in the back of the sanctuary while George preached. This is the Church, wherever we are; and Sunday comes, ready or not.

March 29, 2020

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Ella Wall Prichard, author of Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows, published by 1845 Books, an imprint of the Baylor University Press, in 2018, is under stay-at-home orders in a high-rise apartment building in Dallas, Texas. She posts frequently about her experiences on Facebook and Instagram.

 

4 comments

  1. Thank you Ella, love it. I relate in so many ways. You are not alone; I remind myself of the same during this time. I appreciate your words and sharing! Blessings and be well!

  2. Mrs. Prichard, one of the greatest things that gives me JOY is helping others. I know it almost backfires most of the time but I will not give it up. it gives me a good feeling every time I do it and that cannot be taken away. I ask for nothing in return, that is my way to tell people that I want them to he happy in this life. I don`t pick the people, that is done for me. that brings me to DALLAS. I go out daily, so I would like to bring you the items you feel are necessary to have and in order to avoid any contact, I can leave deliver at the manager`s office or any other location you think to be safe. just say the word. I am usually gone by noon till 3 or 4 pm. here is my phone number 469-786-5872. do not hesitate to call anytime. I will be your back-up.

    1. You are very kind, Leon, and you are right. The best way to deal with our personal worries is to do something for someone else. Fortunately, I have family here are are running errands for me.

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