By Neal Lemery
“They are fine, thank God. I can’t say that for my cousin, though, or my neighbor.”
The line at the check stand fell silent, the clerk pausing in her work.
“That used to be such a casual question,” she said. “Something you just said to get a conversation going. Now, that question that goes to what’s in my heart today.”
Her eyes watered, and she wiped away a tear.
“I’ve lost a few relatives, my neighbor, and a couple of co-workers here,” she said. “There’s a lot of people I’m worried about, too.
The lady behind me, the one on the asking side of the question, took a deep breath and nodded.
“We’re in hard times, and I’m so grateful for my health,” she said. “But we don’t talk much about what we are all going through, with all the loss, all the uncertainty.”
“We have each other,” the clerk said. “We need to care for each other, and talk about our pain, and the grief, and all the unknowing, the value of family and friends.”
We looked at each other, nodding, smiling behind our masks, sharing some deeply felt emotions that needed to be shared, realizing we were in sacred space and time.
The silence filled me up. I felt comforted, connected with people just like me — scared, fearful, and lonely. I was with my tribe, my people, my community. Simply acknowledging all that jumble of feelings was what I had been needing.
The pandemic, the isolation, the sense of disconnectedness, it is all the elephant in our community living room. We are all going through this together, and sometimes, you just need to put that into words, get it out there, and share our hearts with each other.
It is what community does the best, bringing us together in love and compassion.