Gratitude Is the Fountain of Youth

The vast majority of Americans, as well as most of the people around the world, seem to be done with the COVID pandemic. I know that I was … until I discovered that the COVID virus was not done with me! Albert Camus writes about another plague and the stealthy nature of the plague bacillus in his book The Plague. The character Rieux is listening to the cries of joy rising from the town as they celebrate the end of the plague. He warns us that such joy is always imperiled: “he knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned in books; that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send forth to die in a happy city.”

With each new variant, we are reminded that COVID has not died nor disappeared for good. It is, indeed, still with us. It was on a Monday evening that I tested positive for COVID, following a busy weekend at Meeting and at the Festival of Faiths. I began to feel a few aches and a slight sore throat on Sunday, but dismissed them as a summer cold or allergies, allergies which I seem to have year-round.

On Tuesday, Elizabeth tested positive for COVID. Our end of summer plans for a retreat in Michigan began to fade. We cancelled our motel reservations, asked Kristin Lally to find someone to take our place to cook for Tender Mercies, told our daughter that we could not visit with her as planned, and began to hunker down for our ten days of quarantine and Paxlovid medication. This is NOT how we wanted to spend mid-August!

Anne Lamott expresses my feelings about COVID. “This year I have our collective condition on my heart, which is existential exhaustion, disbelief, disorientation. I keep thinking bitterly that I am just done, like an overcooked rump roast, just done. I have been an excellent sport for nearly two years. Grace, which always bats last, saw me through pretty much unscathed relative to most people in the world, although a few scathes have come up recently. But the good sportsmanship was based on all this coming to an end at some point, and right now, I am not convinced that it will. It is like being in a whiteout where you can’t easily tell which is up, which is down or sideways.”

Our Meeting is doing the best we can to protect our members and attendees. Although it causes some irritation, our mask policy and social distancing guidelines are in accordance with CDC and local health regulations. I would suppose that most of us have not only been vaccinated, but had the two recommended booster shots as well. I know that Elizabeth and I have done so.

And yet this new COVID variant does not seem to respect vaccines and those who are vaccinated. Recently, we have had more people in our Meeting testing positive than at the height of the pandemic. The symptoms may not be as severe as they could be without the vaccinations, but the disease is still wreaking havoc with many of our lives.

And so I am resting … sleeping on and off … taking my medication, and trying my best to look on the bright side. Elizabeth and I are so very grateful for the love and concern of Cincinnati Meeting. We love all the texts and emails of concern.

Sitting at my desk writing, I am feeling grateful for a beloved community of care, remembering some further words of Ann Lamott’s reflection on the pandemic. She shares what her friend Tom W. wrote her, “‘So now what? We remember to remember.’ And that’s the answer. We remember that we are alive. We remember the old tried and true things that always bless us — gather if we can, pay gentle attention to others, get outside even in the cold and wet, send money to the poor and to NPR.

“We remember to give thanks that, after so much has been taken from us, so many blessings remain. We say thanks over and over for everything that still works, for all that we still love.

“Gratitude is the fountain of youth. It is soul food … chicken and waffles and peach cobbler. I remember how so many of you have been here and with me through it all and that has made all the difference.

“So thank you … thank you.”

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