“Look, Look,” I cried excitedly, pointing down our back garden. “I think it is a deer.”
We both stared, trying to focus at the shadow as the image became clearer. Eventually, we realized there wasn’t one deer but four of them. We were delighted and watched the creatures as they moved and grazed on the other side of our garden fence. As light increased it was obvious that these were two pairs each consisting of a larger mother and a year-old baby. We continued to watch in wonder.
Anyone reading this might be thinking why such excitement over seeing deer in Upstate New York. Over the years I have taken hundreds of photographs of deer. Several of them have been posted on Facebook! What may not be known is a few years ago this area decided to cull the deer. Cull—it is strange isn’t it how words are often used to mask an unpleasant truth perhaps murder or kill would have not been quite as acceptable. Many voices were raised in opposition, ours included, the debate lasted a couple of years but unfortunately the slaughter ultimately took place. It was sad, these felt like our friends, we had names for them, we had stroked them as had our grandchildren. Several years ago, one was even born in our garden in the early morning as we sat in the hot tub. The newborn remained in our garden for several weeks until big enough to jump the fence. What a joy to share those first few weeks of his life.
Andy and I have not seen any deer for about three or four years and now we were looking at four of them. Life had not been extinguished. Life had found a way.
It was a message of hope much needed in these days. The world is in the middle of a pandemic which will go down forever in the annals of history. I have never lived through anything like this, I suspect nor has anyone else. Today, America has the largest number of cases recorded anywhere in the world—at the moment of writing there are 123,781 cases with 2,229 deaths and 3.238 recovered. The predictions are it will get worse before it gets better.
It is sobering to read the stories of those on the frontline in caring for those suffering. Many of the accounts highlight the severe shortages and desperate needs, as the country was and still is ill prepared to deal with a pandemic of this nature.
I have heard and read some “this is the end of the world” theories. They are not helpful. Life will always find a way.
This Sunday’s lectionary readings give that same message. The Old Testament reading is the story of dry bones in a desert, life is breathed into them and they live (Ezekiel 37:1-14). And the gospel story is of Lazarus being raised from the dead after four days in the tomb (John 11:1-45). Popular, well-known stories. I, as many others, have talked about them often, giving them deep spiritual meaning. Today, I don’t want to look at details, I don’t want to pick out the verse or theme that spoke to me on this occasion. Today, as I read them, they gave me one message of hope — life will find a way.
I don’t want to in any way trivialize the pandemic. These are serious times, people have and will lose their lives. Yesterday, we were told that someone who was part of the congregation of the church Andy was minister of in Northumberland had died of Covid-19. Her children were the same ages as our children — we have not talked to her for over twenty-five years. Nevertheless, hearing a name of someone known in the past was a sober reminder of how serious this is.
But for the world, the human race as a whole, life will find a way. It is a hope we can hang onto in difficult times.
Life may be forever changed, a new consciousness has been raised in everyone about social distancing. I wonder will I ever want to be in a crowd again? Will I feel comfortable shaking someone’s hand? Will I notice every cough I hear while out shopping?
Our pugs are very friendly. We have deliberately socialized them to be so. We have encouraged them to meet other dogs when we are out walking. That has changed. Now when we do our daily walk, we pull the dogs close to us as we stay on opposite sides of the road from other dog walkers (although a distant wave and kindly greeting is exchanged with the humans). A couple of days ago, as we walked past another person walking their dog, our pug, Lucy, barked at it. She had never done that before. It was eye-opening as we realized, in just two weeks, we had taught her to be wary of other dogs. She will eventually need to be re-socialized. I wonder will it be the same for us humans.
But the message of hope is life may be different, but life will find a way forward.
As a final note I want to add that many people are on the cutting edge of the Covid-19 outbreak — nurses, doctors, chaplains, therapists, prison workers, etc. They are living as Christ to those they serve.
There are also many essential workers shopkeepers, garbage collectors (dustbin people in UK), postal workers, they too are being as Christ to those they serve.
Others are accepting restrictions on daily life in hope of helping to stop the spread of this terrible disease to others. Perhaps, at home worried about family members and friends who are elderly or essential workers.
At this time, we need to uplift each other by our prayers, emails and discussions filled with hope that whatever changes, ultimately life will find a way.