by Rita Johnson, Associate Director
I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away. —1 Kings 19:10b + 14b
Unlike Elijah in this passage, there is no person pursuing us seeking revenge. But there is a virus that is still not under control for which we do not have proven drugs to treat or a vaccine to prevent infection. A significant percentage of people under “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders in the USA are doing so solo. Current data from Pew Research cites that 27% of Americans over age 60 live alone. Other data indicates that 31 million people in the USA, about 28% percent of all households, are the only person in their residence.
Stop and consider what it’s like to shelter alone. Some have a companion animal or pet, but I and others do not—day after day, isolated at home, for public health and to truly save lives. The healthier among us can go out for a walk or bike ride, making sure to keep our distance from others. I try to greet everyone warmly when walking. Some respond with a smile or “hello,” others seem lost in their worries.
It’s been a month since I’ve had physical human contact. No hugs. No passing of the peace. No stress-reducing massage. Touch is likely to continue to be restricted even when “stay at home” guidelines begin to relax—which is likely weeks from now. This is another loss, an added grief, for those who need touch most.
I’m fortunate. As a healthy Gen Xer, I’m not in lockdown in a retirement community or care home. In some locations, residents are completely shut in their rooms, with meals dropped at their doors, as if sentenced to solitary confinement in a prison. I’m a likely candidate for an earlier phase of people being allowed to come out to cautiously test community infection rates. But the elderly and those with chronic illnesses may feel they are trapped indefinitely.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? —Psalm 13:1
Read all of Psalm 13. Notice that at the end the Psalmist is able to praise God. David and those who collected the Psalter don’t share how long it was until God’s redemption came.
I also have the blessing of years living overseas where availability of items was variable, and utilities weren’t completely reliable. Thus, I have coping skills to find ways to live. All of us (at least those of us who are housed) can be grateful that we have water from the tap to wash our hands and food to eat each day. Our global neighbors may not. I’m thankful that I have a little balcony on my third-floor unit to access fresh air; many in multi-story buildings or nursing homes don’t.
Next time you watch a video of a family joyfully dancing or singing on YouTube, remember to pray for those who are sheltering solo. Ask God to bring to your mind someone who may be on their own and contact him or her. Some folks, like my mother, may not be able to access Zoom or YouTube, but you can sing a song, pray with them or read a poem to them over the phone. Remind each person that while she or he is physically isolated, she or he has not been abandoned by the church, friends or God.
Jesus, You understand what it is to be alone, to feel isolated and to know that others don’t understand Your pain! Be with each person who lives by himself or herself, especially those under quarantine or lockdown, so that no one becomes deeply lonely. Bring to our minds people who may appreciate a phone call or a greeting card or a gift as they spend days and weeks without in-person human contact. Strengthen our hearts to know You are with us always! Amen.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ! You are the One who is bearing our griefs and will carry our sorrows! (adapted from Isaiah 53:4 NKJV)