Almost nine weeks into our social distancing in the world wide pandemic, we have just gone through 10 days that has been considered the spike in the number of cases in the Commonwealth, and we have seen the rapid expansion of cases on the Cape.
As the death toll reaches 74,000 people in the US, up by almost 50% in two weeks, the uncertainty mounts about what to expect, what to plan for this summer, whether the fall will have any semblance of what we call “normal.” Several weeks ago I reached for a book I had read before but plunged into it with new appreciation this Spring. Written by Cape Cod author, Geraldine Brooks, it is entitled Year of Wonders, and describes a fictional village in England during a quarantine in 1666 for the bubonic plague. At the time, borders with Scotland were closed to prevent contagion. The wealthy retreated from London to their country homes to shelter there. In the cities the poorest neighborhoods were hardest hit and the death toll in London exceeded 15%. But Brooks’ story focuses on one village and the human transformations during this remarkable time in history. Told through the observant eye of a servant girl who survived, it demonstrates gritty persistence and hard-won wisdom. It shows relationships forged in adversity that cross class lines. Then, as now, the plague revealed the best and worst in people, showing their true colors. The greedy became more rapacious. The generous proved astonishingly gracious. Fatigue tested everyone. But moments of adversity reveal that character is always a measure of how we react in times of trial and testing. Character is always about who we are when we think no one is watching. Plagues then and now are utterly humbling. Some people grow superstitious. Others find deep faith. Many sense that we will be forever changed in ways we can process over time. The Apostle Paul was famous for saying that God works through all things for good. That kind of faith can be mistaken for becoming a Pollyanna, which Paul was not. Instead Paul was someone who had learned to live without knowing what the future would bring. He had learned to trust that God held the future and that God was trustworthy. I have no doubt that this pandemic will test our faith; that will be true for all of us. But I keep coming back to this one line in the 23rd Psalm. “He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.” The psalm says that God comes to us precisely when we feel surrounded by trouble. God sets a table in the middle of the worst moments of life. God comes with lavish blessings right in the midst of the hardest trials. Brooks’ book about the bubonic plague three and a half centuries ago is not called “Year of Troubles” but “Year of Wonders.” I have no crystal ball, but I am striving to look for the gifts in this time, and I do believe that there will be plenty of them. Blessings, and stay safe. Rev. Susan