Sheltering in Place

These are weird times. The doctors postponed Mary Esther’s spine surgery until June 10 because of the situation. Her lungs are challenged normally, so it’s important that she not get exposed to the coronavirus. This strange thing has put all our lives on hold.

My heart goes out to people who are homeless and have no place to safely shelter. I remember my times in various shelters. The shelters are like petri dishes where illnesses can spread easily.  I wish I could do more but I have to take care of my wife and make sure, to the best of my ability, that she is not exposed.

For all we know, we have already been exposed, the worst has already happened, but we are going to be one of the low symptom cases. I’m feeling okay; just a bit stressed out by the unusual circumstances we, all of us, find ourselves in. My wife’s condition is a little more uncertain.  She’s been having new symptoms every day the last few days. In the face of the illness that is going around, it’s almost funny how hard it is to find toilet paper in the stores. As if that is going to help. People really panic and do stupid things when their lives are upended.

You hear very little about another population at grave risk in countries all over the world: people in prison. I feel for them right now. I spent a few years in prison for drug offenses, and I know that prison is another petri dish. New prisoners and correctional officers come in and out and they could easily carry the coronavirus in, where it could spread like wildfire through the prison population.

I heard they are going to release some prisoners doing short time, and others who they feel are no threat to the community. Ironically, these prisoners were probably no threat to the community when they got busted. Better late than never.

I imagine that the heroin trade is continuing in some manner or fashion because, when going through Harvard Square, I saw a few people that I hung out with when I was using. They were manning their posts on the street and business must have been as usual. During this time the temptation to pick up can be stronger than normal because of the ongoing stress. Especially with the cancellation of support groups during the quarantine.

The normal news channels blare out their panic-stricken observations and the only news worth listening to is Public Radio or PBS television. Everybody else is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s difficult to listen to sometimes. My wife, who works for a suicide prevention warm line worked last Tuesday trying to calm people down who had been listening to the television. She told the woman that if she followed the instructions for avoiding the virus she would be okay, but the poor thing said “that’s not what they said on tv…nothing is going to be alright.”

It seems as if China dropped the ball by delaying action, and Trump definitely dropped it by saying everything will be alright without doing anything, but, as it turns out so often, he was wrong again and his delay tactics put the whole country at greater danger.

Even though we’ve been through something like this before, like in 1918 when the Spanish Flu hit the world and killed more people than World War 1, World War II, the Korean War, and the war in Vietnam combined, we’ve seemed to have forgotten how to act. The Spanish Flu actually began in Kansas and it attacked people in the prime of their lives. The coronavirus is more lethal to elderly folks or people with challenged immune systems.

It appears that we have become a world of spoiled citizens and many of us think first of our selfish lives instead of acting as compassionately as we can. We need to reach out to each other in a safe manner and help our world get through this crisis.

Ironically, Congress people, rich people, and celebrities can get tested easily, and get their results back the same day. That is not the case for regular folks like you and me. That’s the normal folks, whether we like it or not.

It is time to read a good book, entertain ourselves online, or check with our neighbors to see if they need anything to help themselves.  We’ve got the power to rise above our petty selves and become the good people that may be hiding within us.

I understand that we can be somewhat frightened during these strange times, but we can all act with the awareness that we are all in this together, and we have the power to help or hinder the recovery process for our world.

It’s really ironic that other parts of the world are frightened by the way our government, led by Trump, has totally bungled the start of COVID-19 and they want to stay away from us. This is not, as Trump says, “the China Virus”; it is here among us and that makes it our virus. We can work together and survive, or we can roll the dice and make our country a place where more of us get the sickness.

Spread well being, or spread COVID-19—that is our choice. Let’s hope we choose the right path.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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