Just a Number

I wrote an article for our community paper last month called “Finding the Good.” It represents my optimistic outlook on life, pointing out the positives that we can find in this global pandemic. It’s a light piece with some humor, which I look back on today with gritted teeth. I will include it at the end of this post, if you’re interested in reading it.

Optimism : an inclination to believe in the most favorable outcome. Related words: brightness, cheerfulness … hope… idealism.

Merriam-Webster Thesaurus

Aren’t those beautiful words to frame your life? Who doesn’t want to live under sunny skies all the time; in a world of cheerful hope and a belief in everything turning out okay? I’m an optimist by nature, but even more so as a child of God. Yet, today on Val’s Stage, I’m feeling a little shameful.

I can write an uplifting article about finding the good and display my optimism on my stage quite easily. The setting for my stage is a condo in the sky with an amazing view. It includes a happily married couple who have raised three boys and are watching them build their own nests and find their way in life. No one in my family has been harshly impacted by COVID-19. Haven’t we all at some point said, “I wish I could work from home?” We’re not hurting here.

This week I’ve been thinking about numbers. You’ll see how this relates to my shame in a minute.

I went for a blood test at the hospital one day not too long ago, and after passing in my paperwork, I was asked to take a number.

“I have an appointment,” I told the receptionist.

“Take a number and have a seat,” she repeated.

I had indeed filled in an online form for a specific time to get my blood test done. I was there at the appointed time. The website told me to inform the clinic that I had an appointment. So, why was I now holding a number that deviated from the one being served by nearly twenty?

I sat there in irritation, listening to each number get called in the correct order and watching newcomers take their number and join me in the waiting area. I had made an appointment. How did I become just another number? I’m supposed to be special, I thought, although not in those words. My name should be called, not a number.

When I approached the counter to inquire about this terrible injustice, the response was “Oh, we don’t take appointments here.” She barely looked at me. Her actions said, “Go back and take your seat, Number 49.”

Number 49 puzzled over why there would be a specific form on the clinic’s website to give me hope for a shorter wait: to make me think I had the Fast-Track Pass for the ride at Disney.

It’s not fun being identified by a number. There’s nothing personal about it. Someone else was number 49 just the day before, and a new person would be 49 the day after I wore the title. Where’s the humanity in that?

Numbers have become a huge part of our lives during this pandemic. “What are the numbers like today?” we ask. The numbers tell us about new COVID-19 cases and deaths, locally and worldwide.

We do our part to help flatten the curve and keep our eyes on the numbers. There were only 405 confirmed new cases in Canada yesterday; only 34 deaths. This is great, we think. The numbers are giving us hope; giving us optimism that this is going to be over soon; that we can go back to our normal lives and move on from this.

But just like when I held that piece of paper that identified me as number 49, there were people identified with numbers 1 through 34 yesterday. But at their medical appointments, someone spoke the words, “Time of death…”

34 families mourned a loved one yesterday and are planning a funeral today. Each one of those numbers was a human being killed by the coronavirus. Almost 8000 people in our country have had their lives snuffed out, leaving behind mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and children.

Not so long ago, 22 victims of the shootings in Nova Scotia were mourned by the nation. Their pictures were in the news for days; their stories told for us to hear; their loved ones given the opportunity to talk about the one whose life had been so unjustly taken.

Each of those 34 families yesterday felt that same pain. Have we stopped mourning? Have we reduced their loss to numbers? Those 34 were individuals. They were people.

Optimism has its place, but realism anchors us in this world. It prevents us from losing sight of other people’s plights; their realities. I take a knee on Val’s Stage today and pray for 8000 Canadian families who have lost a loved one; 413,000 families worldwide.

These are not just numbers. These are people who can’t “find the good” in this pandemic.

These are people who are no longer with us.

Please forgive our apathy.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.

Romans 12:15

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Finding the Good

By Valda Goudie, VISTAS

We see the ghost town parking lots of small businesses; we don masks and gloves to pick up groceries; and strangers avoid meeting our eye as we pass them on walks – like eye contact would somehow put them at risk. We might be tempted to think, “What could possibly be good about this pandemic?” I’ve always believed that finding the good in terrible situations is a healthier way to navigate through them. So, this is me – finding the good, in no particular order of significance.

Sleep. Working from home has given us more time to rest! We have eliminated the commute time, and prep time has been drastically reduced as well. Who needs a perfect hairdo and makeup job to work from home? Our bodies may have been accustomed to less sleep, but I’m sure they appreciate the time to catch up on those zzzzs.

Connectivity of technology. We may not be getting out much, but technology has opened up other ways to see and talk to each other. It’s incredible to host a virtual dinner with our sons and their grandparents in different provinces, all eating at the same time (while in different time zones) and interacting together. We honestly hadn’t thought of that possibility before now. No one has to worry about drinking and driving when parties or book clubs are hosted virtually!

Environmental effects. The air quality all over the world has improved as people park their cars and stay at home! The Earth thanks us.

Family time. In our busy society with most families having two parents working outside of the home, while it may not seem like it at times, this lockdown is a gift to families. Even when they are working from home, the opportunities are there to eat lunch together, to take a break and do an activity or go outside. Just having their parents physically present is such a gift of well-being and security for young children.

Education. Homeschooling may have given parents a new sense of appreciation for teachers! It is likely that it has also enlightened some parents to their child’s strengths and weaknesses. They are able to see for themselves what their teachers have been telling them about their child as a student. Their children are getting one-on-one support in areas of need which the school can’t always give them.

Appreciation for health care workers and other essential services. We are more aware of and grateful to those who put themselves at risk daily during this time. Physical messages are posted all over our community saying thank you!

Awareness of some of the flaws in the system. Discovering some of the gaps in our system, especially in caring for our older population, will hopefully mean positive change in the future. I think as a nation, we are appalled and apologetic for not paying more attention to our vulnerable populations.

Stopping to smell the roses. Literally. People are getting outside more. They are enjoying nature, taking pictures of birds, noticing the new leaves on trees, smelling the flowers.

Relaxing Bodies. Our hair is healthier than ever if, like me, you haven’t plugged in a hot iron in months and you avoided going to the drug store to buy your own hair dye. And just consider all the happy boobs. Yes, boobs are dancing delightedly all over Ottawa singing, “We’re free! We’re free!” I hear your Amen, sisters, while echoes of “Where? Where?” bounce off rooftops. We may have a Burn-your-Bra movement happening before we all go back to work.

Online church services – I love going to church in my bathrobe and slippers! Churches are reaching more people with a Good News message this way.

Neighbourly love and concern. Cooking meals for those in need, making donations or helping out at food banks; doing grocery runs for those who can’t go out for themselves; ordering in more often to support local businesses; look at all the ways we are supporting each other! Will we be a closer-knit community when this is over?

Unity as a nation. Way to go, Canada! Some would say our leaders are doing what they can in a situation they can’t predict. They are attempting to keep us safe, while supporting us financially in many cases. While our prime minister may go down in history as the one who reminded us to protect others while talking ‘moistly,’ other leaders of great nations will be immortalized for much bigger issues.

Closing Remarks
Our dear readers who have faced the coronavirus head-on with your own health, or that of love ones; some of you even possibly mourning a death during this time, on behalf of VISTAS, I would like to say we are sorry you’ve faced this hardship. My light tone above is not meant to belittle the suffering this world pandemic has caused.
We are very proud of how our community has united to follow our leaders’ directives to stay at home and protect ourselves and others when we do have to go out. You will read stories in this issue of heroes who have made a positive difference in the lives of others, in lightening the load and providing help to neighbours. We are so proud of you…

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