By J. Hogan
-Gains & Gleanings-
I realized during the Lenten season that I have my feet in two different worlds. It’s not the first time I’ve sensed it, and it’s more like I have my feet in multiple parallel worlds, but COVID-19 has magnified it.
Multiple worlds because I’m a citizen of Heaven who lives here on Earth. A white man with both Black and White families making up his own family. A Christian who loves hanging around those who aren’t. A libertarian Democrat who lives mostly among left-leaning ones and who has tons of right-leaning friends. I could go on.
I will say I enjoy it. I get to see straight through many of the ignorant assumptions folks of all stripes make about others because I’m welcome in their camp and in the other one, and I know firsthand many of those assumptions aren’t correct.
I likely learned this walk to a degree from my sister Maureen. In high school, Maureen won the election for Homecoming queen because she got along with everyone. The rock-loving stoners liked her, as did the jocks, the in-crowd pretty people welcomed her, and the outsider set saw her innate kindness, so they didn’t reject her like they rejected most others. I never studied how she did it, but it made an impression, I’m sure.
The parallel worlds I see the most right now are the COVID worlds.
I have some friends and relatives who wouldn’t dream of not wearing a mask, being in a crowded room or standing near someone not wearing the required facial gear. These folks have mostly stayed home for a year. They’re appalled if they find out a housemate or family member visited someone outside of their tight-knit COVID-free circle, often to the point of lectures. They’ve adapted to Zoom and work-from-home, or even not working, as a prophylactic solution to potential viral exposure and risk of death.
I’ve visited with some of these folks on porches in masks, at hospitals (after they’ve somehow been visited by the coronavirus anyway), and occasionally see them at the grocery store, where they cautiously keep their distance as we exchange pleasantries through our cloth barriers.
The other world, just as big, and more noticeable because they’re seen in numbers, are living like COVID-19 is no big deal. They’ve never stopped gathering, they only mask up when forced to, they hug one another and sit in rooms full of other unmasked folks. They have parties and cookouts. Very early on in this odd pandemic episode, they just mostly got back to living as normal. Which probably seemed a risk then, but now, over a year in and still trucking along sans horrid death, makes one wonder. Some caught COVID-19. They isolated for the prescribed time, lost their senses of smell and taste for a bit, and some got flu symptoms or a bad headache, but when it passed, they went right back to living.
These worlds, and their juxtaposed natures, stand out dramatically, and it’s interesting to interact in both.
I don’t begrudge either camp, but they are different from one another. I look forward, hopefully, to a moment when we might all be able to make these two parallel worlds one again.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.