Surreal.

That is the best word to describe the ever-evolving circumstances of the past two weeks, as COVID-19 threatens to alter our world and anticipated schedules in rapid, head-swiveling fashion.

Wash your hands! Minimize trips outside your home! Cancel sporting events! Cancel concerts! Cancel school, church services and visits to the local bar while you’re at it!

Despite the chaos and mind-numbing uncertainty in which we are all suddenly enveloped, it should help to remember no one is alone in this; our mutual health and well-being are interwoven with the actions of each other.

Last week seems far removed from this Tuesday on which I write — the strangest St. Patrick’s Day in memory. And yet that recently I was reminded of the blessings and wonders small-town life can bring.

Around noon that day, my husband sent me a text message. It was the kind that is normally ambiguous in tone, but immediately I read a high level of anxiety in the relatively innocuous words.

“Are you alright?” he had typed. The worry behind the short inquiry was palpable.

“Sure,” I replied as soon as possible. “I just finished delivering my Meals on Wheels route and am heading home for lunch.”

“Oh,” he wrote flatly.

The reason for his concern? A neighbor had seen me “running into the [hospital] emergency room” and reached out to my husband to make sure everything was fine.

The ER door was my point of entry to access the hospital’s kitchen area, where I and other volunteers collected food to fulfill our church’s Meals on Wheels commitment for the month.

I laughed, unaware anyone had seen me on the move.

Wednesday evening, a text message appeared on my cell phone screen.

“I’m afraid I saw you running into the ER today. And now that the day has slowed down, I wanted to make sure everything is okay,” jotted an observant and caring girlfriend.

Rockwell’s 1984 hit “Somebody’s Watching Me” circled through my brain as I pondered the perils and positives of living in a smaller community. The odds of being noticed are definitely higher, but rest assured that if you’re in need — as in, scrambling into the ER — someone cares what is happening to you.

One week later, the hospital is on virtual lockdown, the portable meals are handed to volunteers at the door and face-to-face contact with recipients forbidden.

But while care exists on many fronts, so too do greed and selfishness.

We’re all familiar with how stores nationwide have been stripped clean of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, among certain other staples. Maybe you already had a good stock at home, maybe you bought some because you genuinely needed the products — or maybe you were among those who filled carts to overflowing out of an impulse to take what you could get for yourself and your loved ones.

You’d think people had forgotten the spirit of Christianity, or never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And yet that classic Christmas movie with its message of self-sacrifice is ranked by one measure as the 24th greatest film of all time.

Have we forgotten how George Bailey saved Bailey Building & Loan by persuading customers to withdraw only the amount of cash they really needed? And how long will it take your family to use 300 rolls of TP, after all?

If we’re all in this together, as it’s easier to say when we’re not in the middle of a crisis, then we’ll express concern when a neighbor is heading into the ER and we won’t panic-buy to prevent others from purchasing a fair measure of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Keep it clean, folks, and remember to love your neighbor — even in the time of Coronavirus.



Check out Time for Moore, Jane Turpin Moore’s blog, at https://timeformoore566445504.wordpress.com