My son Dante is usually the first to exit the house. It’s not unusual to hear the front door softly open and close around four in the morning, I hear the work truck fire up, and the fading sound of the engine as he moves down the dark street.
I usually fall right back to sleep.
This morning was different, last time he left the house for work I had to collect him at the trauma center in Bakersfield, and a minatory level of fear lingers in my bones.
And will remain until he returns.
I sit up in bed and grab my computer because if I can’t sleep at least I can allow my thoughts to bleed out onto the page. Yes, I’m being dramatic, but it’s early, and I haven’t had my coffee.
As many of you know I’m a huge advocate for stagnation, as in routine, dull, settled, but 2020 has been an uncompromising
bastard educator in the rudiments of chaos.
Nothing stays the same, in fact, life seems to go out of it’s way to reinforce this odious concept, and I’m not sure what I need to do to let life know I’ve mastered the damn concept.
Since March, weddings have been planned, canceled, and reinvented. We’ve not only extended our tiny bubbles but many families are sheltering several generations under one roof. We’ve learned how to teach our children remotely, maintain a strict practice of social distancing, wear restrictive masks, and wash our hands as if we were germophobic (whom I’ve learned to admire). We’re all working remotely if we’re lucky enough to still have a job and a strong internet connection. We’ve put traveling on hold, birthday celebrations, socializing, holiday traditions, even the way we mourn and worship.
Most of us know someone who has fallen sick or died during this time, leaving families to grieve alone, without the solace of a funeral.
This is how I see it, we’re on a collective journey, one that includes a lot of turmoil, separation, and reckoning.
It’s as if the universe is forcing us all into a collective transformative experience don’t you think? Maybe if we stop and listen, we could come up with some answers, but don’t hold your breath, I’d hate to be responsible if you were to faint.
It is mildly amusing that this happened in 2020, something that symbolizes perfect vision, especially as mine continues to decline.
Rigidity is the inability to bend or be forced out of shape, an inability to be adaptable in outlook, beliefs, or actions. We not only reject people who hold beliefs different from our own but we bully each other! What the hell is that about? What is the purpose of demonizing people with opposing political views, or diverse ethnicities, occupations, and beliefs?
It’s become my way or the highway sort of idiom.
Well guess where that has got us?
Now we live in the ample of uncertainty, confusion, and despair because an invisible virus is kicking our collective butts.
What’s the embedded message?
I think the time for change is clearly ripe and ready for harvest. Reminds me of the parable about the workers in the vineyard from the Gospel of Matthew. In this narrative God is a vineyard owner, Jesus the foreman, and the workers are the believers whose “harvest” is ushering in a new social order, one characterized by love, mercy, empathy, justice, compassion, and kindness. Some of the “workers” have been laboring for decades, others are brand new, but God continues to call us all to this work. The pay is the same whether you’ve been a seasonal worker or long time devotee, it has to do with kinship, where love of God and neighbor has become inseparable.
For action to be compassionate, we need to eliminate the idea of object, we need to be here together doing exactly what needs to be done to relieve pain and suffering in the simplest way we can. We need to listen. Ram Dass
We’re going to have to get creative people! This epidemic has pulled us out of our apathetic, habitual, frivolous lifestyles, and forced us to confront some uncomfortable truths. Angel Kydod Williams says for us to transform as a society, we have to allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals. And for us to be transformed…we have to allow for the incompleteness of any of our truths and a real forgiveness for the complexity of human beings.
Our current levels of tension suggests that now is the perfect time to initiate some constructive change, especially in our civic discourse, how we value the dignity of all life (including our planet), and what sort of endowment we hope to bequest future generations.
This is going to require an adjustment in our thinking, instead of breaking down our lives, our economy, our well ordered existence, maybe we allow it to break open our hearts. Don’t be like, “my heart is just fine, thank you,” because our hearts can always be more malleable!
This is how Lindsay Mclaughlin sees it, “I think the work and grace of this time is to make of our hearts maternal vessels wide and deep enough to cradle all of it: the sorrow, beauty, shame, tenderness, hurt, redemption, and resolve.” Amen.
Life is going to look different post-pandemic, we have to decide if we’re going to work for God’s vineyard, or the other dude that sports a pitchfork? As Halifax claims, “we live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.”
It’s heartwarming to see families breaking bread together, walking the neighborhoods, slowing down, upgrading their Netflix accounts, counting their blessings instead of their woes. I believe fermented grapes might be involved, we refer to that as the blessings of the vineyard.
I miss hugging like everyone else but I’m also becoming more comfortable with an elbow bump and a generous wave. I don’t know if we’ll ever return to large sporting, theater, and music events without staggering arrival and departure times, limiting occupancy, and adjusting the seating arrangements. The viability of restaurants is questionable at best but I believe zoom is here to stay. I worry about the inordinate economic consequences to our communities, especially those on the margins, and how these new limitations might cause an even greater divide in our society.
We’re being forced, like it or not, to consider who we are, and what we truly value. Maybe in the long run we’ll become better versions of ourselves. I still believe that hope trumps fear, and just like many generations before us who were forced to recreate themselves after a global event, we have been given the opportunity to do the same. But this time the whole world is fighting a common enemy and in and through this battle we are rediscovering our humanity.
I’ve returned to this essay throughout the day, it seems disjointed, and inconclusive, but I can’t seem to corral my thoughts. Then I hear his truck pull up, park along the curb, and Dante walks into the house.
Tony and Thilita are cooking dinner tonight, the smells coming from the kitchen are divine. The twins are demanding a password if you want to move freely about the house, in case you need to know, it’s “you are my heart.” Audrey is telling me a story while Nic and Julie discuss shades of grey paint for the front of their house. Larry just finished a conference call and opened a bottle of wine. Bless him.
This is when it came to me, our lives might be murky, iniquitous, and rigid, but they’re also magnificent, noble, and blessed. This home has become a crowded shelter for those I love but best of all I’m learning what it means to be malleable and awed by unexpected moments of grace. We might be late to the harvest but as the vineyard owner says, “so the last shall be first, and the first will be last.”
Better late than never!
I’m Living in the Gap, sheltering with my beloved, enjoying the harvest.
- The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard Matthew 20:1-16 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”