The Day the Earth Stood Still

On Thursday, March 12th, 2020, the sports teams stopped, and the universities closed. The theatres canceled performances, and the churches canceled services. On Friday the 13th, the schools were dismissed. On Saturday, the resorts shut down. On Monday, the restaurants were required to suspend all dine-in services. They told us not to go to the movies. Don’t take your kids to the park. Gather in groups less than 100, less than 50, less than 10. One by one, businesses limited their hours, closed their doors, and we were all sent home. Chaos ensued: families suddenly had to figure out how to work from home, homeschool their kids, and find toilet paper. Kids full of energy were limited to run and play in their yards. Couples who had lost their way felt compelled to talk to each other. People living alone were faced with profound loneliness. But in the midst of it all……something beautiful also happened.

We were forced to STOP. Stop filling our days with appointments. Stop running our kids from school to lessons to classes to playdates. Stop the rat race of running here and there and everywhere all day long every day of the week forever and ever amen. And what we found in the stillness was wonderful.

We started to reconnect with our families. Hours of togetherness meant having more conversations, doing more things together, and enjoying being with one another. We got creative with all that time and played games, did art projects, and cooked meals together as a family.

We started to reconnect with our friends. We called each other, had long talks, had virtual happy hours, held Zoom meetings, and FaceTime chats with people who we just hadn’t had the time to pick up the phone and call since who knows when. We reached out to others–friends, neighbors, and strangers–simply to see how they were doing and if they were okay.

We went outside more. We took more walks, played in the yard, sat on the porch, ate picnics on the lawn, hiked, ran, turned our faces toward the sun, and breathed in the fresh air. We planted our gardens and waited for our flowers to come up and colored with chalk on the sidewalks.

We began to search for ways to help and serve. We got really good at finding innovative ways to fill the day. We found pleasure in simplicity and discovered we could still laugh and experience joy.

As I write this, it’s difficult for me to say what happened next. We are only in the first weeks of “social distancing,” likely with many more to come. Some people will lose their jobs, and some people will not be able to pay their rent or their bills. Some people will be hungry. So many of us will lose so much. But my wish for us all is that we will gain so much as well. In our new life that is slowed and simplified, we will find our way back to family, to our joy, and our humanity.

So what will you do when the worst has passed? Will you forget everything you’ve learned from this experience? Or will you carry it with you into whatever comes next? Will we need to be reminded of what is important? What is essential? Will we still help each other? One day we will be through this, and we will return to our jobs and our schools. We will fill our days with appointments, and we will eat standing up at the kitchen counter. We won’t be able to remember the last time we called a good friend only to check-in, and we will have a stack of books on the nightstand that never seem to get read. And when we are there, I want you to cut out this list and hang it on your fridge.

DON’T FORGET TO…

  • Take a walk.
  • FaceTime a friend.
  • Call your mother and ask her how she’s doing.
  • Cook together with your kids.
  • Play a game.
  • Look for ways to help people.
  • Read a book.
  • Color your sidewalk with chalk.
  • Support a local business.
  • Make time for your family.
  • Make time for your hobbies.
  • Cancel just one thing that isn’t really necessary.
  • Breathe slowly.
  • Sometimes, spend a whole day in your pajamas.