I tell people – with perhaps a tad bit too much self-importance –
Do. Not. Be. Afraid.
But at least I follow this advice myself.
Follow it, that is, until I go to the grocery store where
something of a panic sets in.
I laughed at those idiots hoarding the toilet paper,
But I’m not laughing anymore.
I’m frantically questioning now, with increasing speed in each isle:
Where are the frozen vegetables?
(I hardly buy frozen vegetables, but at least I could if I wanted to).
The salted butter?
Is sugar really an essential during a pandemic?
Do you think your baking can save you?
(I grab 3 large bags of individual sugar packs;
the normal stuff’s gone).
The soap isle is empty; been a ghost town for a while now.
Soon I’ll go to another store for milk –
and, God knows, cream for my morning coffee.
But that’s just the food.

Then there are the people.
Are they carrying it?
Am I standing far enough away from them?
I hold my breath as I walk past.
Are they holding theirs?
Do they think I have it?
Why are they looking at me like that?
There were four bags of individual sugar packets left
and I only took three. It’s not like I’m a hoarder.
Plus, I really love people…
and really hope that Mom
is making sure her kids aren’t touching everything little thing.
I’ve got to get out of here.
Right after I enter my pin
on that keypad that everyone in the whole world has touched.
I ask the teller if sick people are still coming in,
as I enter my pin,
and the answer wasn’t what I was hoping to hear.
I need to sanitize, take my sugar packs,
and get out of here.
Get home.

The place where, despite the empty isles, I haven’t missed a meal yet.
The place where I’m safe from the things that are confronting me:
like my way down belief in scarcity.
I read Brueggemann like the rest of them
and on Sundays preach abundance full and free,
But those dang little sugar packs are staring at me.
Those arrogant little packs have a
tad bit of self-importance, don’t they?
I’m home and I’ve washed my hands, but
I still feel dirty.
From holding my breath;
From judging that Mom;
and for taking too many sugar packs.

Oh God,
You who fed the five-thousand with a boys lunch,
(not to mention the moms and their children)
and who, yourself, abundant God,
became our food and drink…

Oh God,
You who touched the lepers
and were yourself touched by the woman in her 12 year strong social distancing…

Oh God,
Feed me,
Touch me,
Forgive me,
and deliver me from fear.

A Pandemic Prayer
Lent 2020