A Bag of Onions
During our Zoom meeting this morning, a colleague the told story of how one of her parishioners was out of onions.
She said her husband had been planning to run to the store anyway. So while shopping he picked up a bag of yellow onions, dropped them off on the parishioner's porch, rang the doorbell and prepared to hop back into the car to drive home.
The parishioner, hearing the doorbell, assumed this was the UPS guy making a delivery. But when she opened the door, she saw something unexpected on her porch. My colleague's husband watched as she picked up the bag of onions and hugged them to herself, nearly on the verge of tears.
When my colleague told me this story, I was also pretty much on the verge of tears.
I'm not sure why. Maybe just because it is easy to be brought to tears these days.
Maybe because community means more than it ever has. And is harder to find.
In my life, I have been accused of wanting too much "alone time." But that means I generally do the living-alone thing fairly well. I cook for myself. I practice yoga. I read in a sunroom filled with houseplants and my large and noisy dog. And since I work from a home office, I am almost never bored.
And during this epoch of social distancing, my Zoom meetings with colleagues and phone calls with friends provide a stabilizing comfort.
But still--there are moments when a wave of anxiety hits with tidal velocity and I want nothing more than human contact. And of course, there is none to be had. I can't go to or teach a yoga class. I can't schedule a session with my massage therapist who seems somehow able to read my mood through my skin. I can't distribute communion to my parishioners, one of the most meaningful things that I do in my life.
And even when my daughter and her husband arrive from New York to stay with me for a while, I cannot greet them with hugs. I can't stroke my daughter's hair. We can't sit around the small kitchen table with a big pot of tea and poppy seed scones and play a game of Dominoes.
So something about that bag of yellow onions and my colleague's parishioner picking them up and hugging them moves me immeasurably. Somehow it seems emblematic of what we need. And what we need is the most of community that we can find.
Pastors are streaming solitary and short Sunday services from their homes. (You can come to my "church" see the aforementioned houseplants at St. John's-on-Sand-Creek on YouTube.) Funerals are on hold, weddings postponed, hospital and nursing home visits forbidden.
"We'll get through this" is our new, largely meaningless mantra.
But I suspect a return to common gatherings, everyday affection, conversations over shared meals is what we long for most and what we seek to find, even in isolation, even in the smallest glimmers.
Albert Camus, writing in The Plague--never more appropriate to read than now--observes that "a loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one's work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.”
In this time of scant contact, sad news, enforced isolation, keep on the lookout for a bag of yellow onions--and all that that can mean.