As COVID-19 has put our nation on lockdown and rapidly ushered abrupt change into our normal daily routines, I was thinking about how different the world was just three months ago. The holiday season was in full swing as we celebrated Christmas with loved ones. When we wrapped up our New Year’s festivities, we had no idea that we were on the brink of a global pandemic.
During Christmas, I had an awesome time with my mother as she taught me how to bake banana bread. Yes, I am still learning to cook at 50. I gave myself huge kudos for perfectly sifting flour, and I loved channeling my inner 8-year-old self as I giddily licked the leftover sweetened yellow batter on my wooden stirring spoon. While we were shopping at Walmart for ingredients for this tasty desert and other holiday fixings, my mother and I could have never imagined the coming of bare store shelves and the current rationing of everyday purchases like toilet paper, water, milk, eggs and bread. I was also making plans during the holiday break for the spring 2020 English and pop culture courses that I teach at Ohio State’s Lima campus.
I was especially looking forward to the symposium and group reflection assignments I created for students to share their research and speak about what they learned this semester with their peers. Now all of these activities will transition to virtual learning, as Ohio State and other colleges and universities throughout the country have canceled face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the academic year.
Teaching online will be a slight adjustment for me, since I prefer to lecture in person. It’s going to require much more prep time, but I am definitely not going to complain about my job situation because I am blessed to work from home. Many are not. Those in the “gig” economy, and others who are seasonal and part-time workers with no paid leave or benefits, are being hit with grave unexpected loss of wages. I am relieved to read that the states of New York and California, and large cities including Seattle, Orlando, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, are implementing housing measures to prevent evictions and foreclosures. Many will receive relief for utilities. It is also great to see U.S. grocery store chains reserve shopping hours for senior citizens so they can get the supplies they need and avoid large crowds.
While my mother and I are not threatened with loss of income or food insecurity as the country navigates its way through this health crisis, the coronavirus outbreak did affect us on an intimate, personal level due to the social distancing restrictions now in place. Two of our closest cousins just passed away within three days of each other last week. This was a mother and son, so it was pretty hard on us. We were not able to hold their funeral services at church since gatherings of 50 or more are not currently permitted. We were allowed to have a private gravesite service with close family and friends, but we could not have a traditional repast fellowship meal. We will have to wait until the COVID-19 threat is under control before we can have a public memorial service.
The social accommodations and sacrifices that we are being asked to make, and that are being mandated by our government in other instances, have forced us to put some activities in our lives on hold. I have pressed a pause button for myself, but I refuse to panic during this pandemic. I will be making additional time for personal Bible study, as well as praying and fasting more. I am standing on my faith and choosing to focus on the things that cannot be canceled while I observe health safety precautions. My praise for God when I wake up in the morning cannot be canceled. Doing what I can to assist someone in need cannot be canceled. A telephone call to encourage a friend cannot be canceled. And most importantly during this trying time, love, laughter and joy cannot be canceled.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University’s Lima campus.