It’s no secret that these are unprecedented times, and we are all trying to navigate uncharted waters. By now, you are probably overwhelmed with numbers, graphs, statistics and press conferences. The coronavirus crisis has quickly transitioned from an inconvenience to a surreal state of fear and isolation, and attitudes range from “Bah, we’re over-reacting” to “We need to prepare for the apocalypse!” The situation changes so rapidly that the current policies as I write these words will likely evolve by the time you read them.

This health crisis impacts each of us on many levels. As the daughter of eighty-plus year-old parents, I have to worry about them from long distance. As a small business owner, I am already feeling the pain of losing sales and worrying about how long owners like me can survive a shutdown. As a community member, I feel for students disrupting their educations, workers losing their paychecks and a myriad of other issues that people are facing. It seems each day brings more serious updates and stricter regulations and it’s hard to see beyond the dark clouds of this storm.

If you are beginning to feel that the darkness of this situation is overwhelming and your soul feels heavy with worry, I want to offer some encouragement. Amid the stories of job losses, selfish hoarding and the cancellation of important life events we will also find untold tales of compassion, selflessness, and faith that reaffirm our sense of humanity and goodness within.

I am not naïve, and I realize that the optimistic posts about polluted waters suddenly clearing and dolphins swimming in Venice are hopeful but unfounded. I also realize that for every mother treasuring more quality time at home with her children there is another stressed-out mother dealing with bored and frightened kids or sullen teens glued to a screen. As regulations tighten, nursing home residents aren’t being visited, church fellowship is via the internet and even the remote possibility of not having access to groceries or medicine is terribly frightening.

As the owner of a retail boutique, the thought of losing my income for an undetermined length of time is sobering and I’ll admit to serving myself a healthy dose of self-pity for a couple of days. But this situation has also afforded me the chance to become closer to my downtown neighbors as we share our fears and ideas to support each other.  We all agree that the success and viability of downtown Marietta depends on all of us being able to return to normal, and we are doing our best to make that happen.

On a personal note, I’ve had some wonderful conversations and become closer to people as we admit our fears to each other and share our vulnerabilities but also faith. I believe this crisis is strengthening our bonds and heightening our sense of community.  I’ve been buoyed by messages and texts from customers, neighbors, friends and family who are keeping me in thought and prayer even while dealing with their own scary situations.

People of faith like myself are leaning into that faith and holding tight the promises offered by our Maker. We are discovering – or re-discovering – not only what is truly important but what isn’t important.  Countless people, regardless of their faith, are reaching out in kindness and compassion to help those who are at a disadvantage. Neighbors are checking on the elderly and making grocery runs, teens are offering their various skills to help others, organizations are helping feed students who rely on school meals. There are so many unsung heroes, not the least our health care workers, first responders, delivery people, grocers and others who continue to do their jobs because we depend on their products or services.

I could go on about the many ways this crisis is allowing us to step up and demonstrate the Golden Rule, and I’m sure you have a long list of examples yourself. Some years ago, President Bush coined the phrase “a thousand points of light”, inspiring some and providing comic fodder for others. But really, isn’t that the way to overcome this darkness and get a glimpse of the sun beyond the clouds? One of my favorite songs by the group Passenger claims that “if we all light up, we can scare away the dark.”  I am hopefully confident that when we all combine our little points of light we can create a brighter community than we ever thought possible. So until we meet again in person, stay safe, keep the faith, reach out if you’re in need, and be assured the sun will shine again.