Fellowship and Farewells

This past week was anything but “shelter in place,” but not undertaken without care. Each day had its measure of joy. Tuesday, we did outdoor grilling with friends we had not seen since Thanksgiving. We sat at opposite ends of their long deck table until the wind picked up and the clouds began to sputter. Then we moved to the shelter of the front porch, which still allowed for distancing. After the rain, our friends showed us where they want to install a zip line for their grandchildren’s summer entertainment in their spacious yard.

On Wednesday evening, I interviewed persons who came to our church’s food pantry. These days, the clients remain in their cars and wait till they are interviewed as to their names, number in family, and whether they have been there before. This information allows those working on computers inside the church to find their files and keep the records straight. An additional question asks whether they eat pork, as some adhere to the Muslim tradition of not eating pork. I wear a mask and if I encounter anyone who is not wearing one, I ask them to please wear one. We always have donated masks on hand to give to those without one. No one complains. Most of those who show up are Spanish speakers. Thus I have the double joy of both helping someone and using the Spanish I learned many years ago in El Salvador. One person asked me for three band-aids as he had no money to go to a doctor to take care of a cut in his hand. My heart goes out to people who are in such dire situations.

Thursday’s joys included picking cherries on a local farm–something I hadn’t done for several years. Up on the ladder, the view of the surrounding green hills and valleys, with Massanutten mountain in the distance, is priceless. I go there for the view as much as for the cherries. The farmer’s daughter was visiting from out of state with her twin three-year-old daughters. I finally got to meet them, one of which is my namesake. A friend who had carpel tunnel surgery was waiting to see us when we got home. While my husband and I worked on canning cherries, we visited with James at a safe distance. That evening, I went to a farewell party for a friend. Twenty or so met in a park. That was the largest group I have been with since all this began and it felt both strange and wonderful. Everyone had their stories of feeling either bored or very busy.

Friday morning, I drove to my sister’s farm to plant sweet corn. Their garden space is much larger than ours, and they don’t have to worry about deer robbing their garden. That evening, we said good-bye to two very special persons. Two visiting scholars from China had been staying in a guest house nearby since early January. They had come to audit classes at Eastern Mennonite University as well as to travel and experience American culture. I also met with them weekly to discuss teaching methods. Unfortunately, the virus that began in their country found its way to this one while they were here (no fault of theirs). As the virus progressed here, four of their cohorts were able to get tickets back to China in early April. The other two had tickets booked and cancelled repeatedly. Meanwhile, they used their time to work on academic tasks, writing a paper and translating a novel. I had met with them every week or two in our back yard, or took a walk in the neighborhood, until last Friday. The final gift they left with us was most appropriate–two bags of masks!

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