April 11, 2020
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Letter #492: “I’ve Noticed a Few Things”
Staying at home has taught many people many things they never knew before and revealed things they’d perhaps never paid much attention to before. While this staying home thing is old hat for me, I’ve had more time to notice the world around me. I’ve done a lot of reading and writing, and projects I never had time for are now within reach. (No, I won’t be remodeling my bathroom.) Here’s a brief list of things I’ve noticed. I’d love to hear some of yours.
- I’ve noticed that people who practiced good hygiene before this have created whole new levels of Neat Freakishness, while those who typically lived as Dirt Bags have taken on their lack of hygiene as a Cause, becoming Conspiracy Theorists solely because they don’t personally know of someone who has died of the virus. Yet. So, I’ve got one guy who washes and irons his bed sheets by hand every two days and another guy who doesn’t bring soap with him when he uses the restroom.
- I’ve noticed that the original meaning of saying “God bless you” after someone sneezes is back. The sneeze was a symptom of the Bubonic Plague and signaled that death was imminent. A compassionate “God bless you” was appropriate. Now, I’ve watched guys sneeze into their hand (like a Neanderthal!) and immediately get death threats from guys who have … experience getting people to never sneeze again. “God bless you … and keep you … far away from us!” we are all thinking.
- I’ve noticed that my left hand has no clue what to do with itself while my right hand is busy being useful, shaving my face. Oh, it helps lather up the soap to spread on my cheeks, but then I’ve caught it just sitting there frozen in place, looking like a lobster claw. I’ve let it know this is not cool.
- I’ve noticed that’s not the only part of my body I’m critiquing these days. I have so-called “aviator knees,” the layman’s term for crooked knees that look at each other, to make is sound like a benefit. As in, “Yay! You’ll find it easier to fit your legs around the stick in a fighter jet cockpit.” Great. My second career in the Air Force should be a breeze. One benefit is an ease in horseback riding and in looking like you’ve been horseback riding. During this shelter-in-place order, I’ve noticed them looking at each other more often.
- I’ve noticed that my haircut and hairstyle matter to me less and less. No visits mean no pictures, either. Not only that, but I have no social media machine to feed and no video conference calls to be a part of. I can live in a beanie and no one questions it. My hairdo is now more of a hairdon’t, and I couldn’t care less.
- I’ve noticed that people’s behaviors that annoyed you before all this now seem unbearable. I’ve had my share of odd bunkies (you can read about a couple of them: Brandon – http://changedinside.org/4-the-crisis/ and Andrew – http://changedinside.org/179-chuck-e-cheese-is-my-cellie/), but of my nearly 30 bunkies, my current one, Michael, (Not Mikey, my friend with cancer that I wrote about in my last letter … this was before I got him as a bunkie) is the worst. Selfish to a fault, he often sounds and feels like he’s building a cage for a baby hippo underneath me … at 2:30 in the morning. He exercises on the bunk and next to it at that time every day and talks to his television while I’m reading my Bible. Gratefully, he paroles in a few days (yes, I know exactly how many hours).
- I’ve noticed some companies are better at understanding how to help than others. McDonald’s has offered to feed health care workers for two weeks. The catch? It’s McDonald’s, and they have to go get it from a drive-thru. My Uncle Jim, who works in a nursing home, won’t risk lives by exposing himself to a drive-thru. My brother Brian’s company, ProAct, is shipping thousands of boxes of produce every week to hospitals hardest hit, so that workers can take home fruit, vegetables, milk, and cheese products to feed their families without having to go shopping at the end of a long shift. They’ve committed to at least two months. https://www.producepartners.org/
- I’ve noticed that, if conditions are right, issuing masks to criminals is warranted. We all got blue masks with white strings, all made from our CDCR shirt and T-shirt material. It matches with almost all of my outfits. I’ve purchased grey shorts and T-shirts from packages, so I made a grey mask from an old beanie and T-shirts, so I now have a facemask for any outfit and color combination I choose.
- I’ve noticed that you can’t mouth things behind a mask—such as “Whew! Thanks!” or the universal facial expression for “Eek! Whoops!” While wearing either of my masks, I’ve turned into a costumed Disney-character-like mad gesturing phenom. Ever seen perpetually-smiling Mickey show surprise by covering his mouth with two hands? Yeah. That.
- I’ve noticed that a bunch of people have moved up their wedding dates so they could socially isolate together. Must be nice to choose who you get to stay home with.
- I’ve noticed that while on the phone with my brothers, I’ve been able to participate in several Zoom video conference calls. I just can’t seem to ever change my background.
- I’ve noticed that snacking can become elevated from an act of simple food consumption to a hobby to a favorite pastime to an expert art form. I am very, very good at it.
- I’ve noticed that books are infinitely better than TV—especially when your only TV option is one that has just five channels and is shared with 180 other people. It helps when you have such life-changing books to read as John Eldredge’s Moving Mountains—Praying with Passion, Confidence, and Authority. Also, sermons from some of my favorite pastors, including my twin brother (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kUwODMVHjk&feature=youtu.be), have blessed me.
• I’ve noticed that in the absence of church services and corporate worship times, having someone send you a favorite song that has ministered to them is pretty great. A friend just played the guitar for me and sang over the phone. On the playlist: Matthew West’s new song, “Take Heart.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lmeK6LuPgI
I’d love to hear what you’ve noticed during this time. Is the sky a bit bluer, the voices of loved ones sweeter, plans for the future dearer? I’m praying I notice what God wants me to notice, even if there is a hippo downstairs.