I hope you are reading this safely at home. No coffee with friends. No unnecessary trips to the grocery story. I hope that you are mostly staying inside, and that when you have to go out, you are staying 6 feet away from people. I hope that you are washing your hands every time you think of it and practicing not touching your face.
The price of social distancing is high: no school, no work, no yoga classes, no dinners out, no Sunday morning worship, no trips away. Science won’t save us, at least not yet – a vaccine, at best, is still months away. Our health care system can’t properly protect us – unless we slow the spread of this virus down.
And so, our best chance of getting through these next few months is our altruistic sense of community, and what we are willing to do to keep one another safe.
This is the reality: the cost of this limit will not be borne equally. Many Canadians lack a job that allows them to work at home, and they face being laid off. For many Canadians, the least of their worries is how to get home from a fancy cruise. Many families don’t have a backyard where they can get the fresh air. While those of us with partners and kids may grumble about being trapped in a house with one another, what of those who live alone, with no company?
And yet we are all asked – equally, to give up our freedoms. Not for ourselves, but for the collective good.
Not everyone will follow these guidelines. For some, there are reasons that make it hard – perhaps they don’t have the resources to stock up on food, or a job they may need to attend. But others are simply making the choice to keep hanging out with friends, to grab that cheap flight to Mexico, or party on the beach, at least until those beaches are closed to force them to go home.
That is frustrating – and it prompted a conversation this week, where my sons are staying home, except for the odd bike ride. Why, one of them asked, when so many of their friends are still going out? What different will it make?
The difference, we concluded, is that the possibility of slowing the virus through temporary sacrifice and inconvenience may save lives and keep health care workers safer. We know that living life as normal will only lead to more deaths. So, we choose sacrifice over indulgence; and civic duty over entitlement.
Isn’t that the point that Jesus makes to the Pharisees toward the end of our gospel this Sunday? In this passage from John, Jesus has just restored the sight of a blind man. He then uses the idea of sight being restored as metaphor: “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
Jesus was challenging everyone to see the world in a different way than they had been doing. To those who thought they had no knowledge or power – who believed they could not see – he gave them sight – and empowered them. To those who thought they already had everything figured out, he wanted to bring humility. What can be more humbling than having to find our way in the dark around a world you thought you knew a certain way?
Doesn’t this apply to us today, with the news changing at every moment? We are living in a world that is no longer static and stable, but uncertain. In truth the world, for many people, is in a constant state of uncertainty – for us, living in prosperity and democracy, it is an unfamiliar state. We are the ones who could see, and are now blind, feeling our way in the dark.
In the gospel, Jesus is constantly urging us to see clearly, so that we might improve the world we live in; to be engaged citizens, to challenge one another other, to serve one another. It is the certainty of this gospel call that brings stability to uncertain time. When we act generously and altruistically, we quiet the ground underneath us. We know that even if the world feels wrong, we have done something right.
That is our task today. We may not be working in a hospital, but we can help. We all have a role to play in slowing it down. Will it work? We must pray it will, but for now that is a blindness we will have to live with.
In the meantime, we must all choose to see the sacrifice required of us.
So please: practice social distancing. Reach out to support your neighbors who might need help, with a phone call, or dropping off groceries if needed. Wash your hands. So, when the danger is passed, we can all say that we answered the call to do our part for the greater good. When the world felt so wrong, at least we did what was right.