A friend of mine from a long time back recently posted on Facebook about her battle with COVID-19. She’s been sick for over two weeks now; not sick enough to be hospitalized, sick enough though, that every day feels like a struggle. She says that one of the most wearying parts of the illness is facing the ongoing question, “Where did you get it?” (She doesn’t know.) The other part is feeling like she failed in doing the One Job Everyone Has Right Now — Don’t. Get. Sick.
Her post struck me hard because, on New Year’s Eve no less, I spiked a fever with chills and aches and my provider recommended that get tested for COVID-19. I spent the next few days in that breathless state of waiting for my test results, but more importantly, trying to avoid infecting anyone in my household.
I avoided touching surfaces with my hands, using T-shirt edges to open doorknobs and elbows to flick light switches up and down. I limited where I sat, wore a mask outside to walk the dog, and worried over every cough and sniffle.
I mentally reviewed anywhere I’d been in the preceding five days where I might have been in anyone’s space long enough to expose them — even though I don’t go anywhere without a mask, even though I wash my hands so much they feel like loofahs, even though I protect my six-foot bubble like a goalie in the net.
I did all of those things, and continue to do all of those things, because I know that the number one job is not really Don’t. Get. Sick. The number one job for all of us is — Don’t. Get. Anyone. Else. Sick.
Whatever our own immune systems can tolerate, whatever our own comfort zones might include, our most important responsibilities are not about our own well-being. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Our well-being, more than at any time in the last hundred years, relies on everyone keeping up their end of the bargain.
I am grateful beyond measure that my COVID-19 test results came back negative. I’m glad for my own well-being, but more grateful to know that I haven’t personally been responsible for infecting anyone in my household.
Exceeding that, though, I’m grateful for all of you in my community who have stayed home when you could, even when you were bored out of your minds, worn masks that steam up your glasses and make your faces sweaty, kept your social distance bubbles even when doing so makes you look like you’re doing some kind of anti-social tango.
Sometimes you can do all the right things and still get sick. Sometimes, we can do all the right things and manage to get others sick. What matters is that, every day, we keep each other’s well-being foremost in mind, and through that, bear each other up in love.
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Yocum is the Senior Pastor at UCC Missoula. She can be reached at email@example.com.