Our greenway has been shut down for weeks, so we’ve been walking through town in the mornings too. Last Saturday we passed a church. From two blocks away, we saw a packed parking lot and cars wrapped around the street. Two cops were directing traffic. Springfield has been so eerily quiet that we often walk in the middle of the road, so seeing that many people caused us to pause. It looked like traffic after a drag race instead of during a pandemic. I checked the courthouse’s clock tower and it read 8:45 a.m.
As we got closer, we saw boxes of bananas, bread, and canned food stacked on folding tables. Volunteers in masks were stuffing the items into bags. It was a food bank, and hundreds of people were sitting in their cars waiting for groceries. Children waved out windows, and a few yelled “doggie.” We looped around one minivan twice because of a pigtail-wearing cutie who couldn’t stop giggling at Meadow’s goofy smile.
At the top of the hill, we stopped and talked to the cops, who told us people had already been in line when they arrived at six. It took five minutes to compose myself. That many people waiting three hours for bananas and bread hit me in the stomach with an emotional wallop. I was witnessing up close and personal the pandemic’s economic impact in my community for the first time.
After I collected myself, I realized how lucky I am. Mason and I may not be working again yet, but we’re not hungry either. Secondly, I thought about the animals. If those people were suffering, so were their dogs and cats.
A few years ago, a little boy confessed his mom dropped a litter of kittens off on a country road. At first, I was livid. Who would do something like that? Then, I saw where this little boy lived. In his house, in-door plumbing was questionable, let alone a meal including anything but nuked starch. When it comes to feeding your kids or feeding a litter of kittens, the choice is obvious. Right now, thousands of people are facing that same decision.
Mason and I have debates, always healthy but sometimes heated, about the pandemic shutdown. I think about hungry people, the mentally ill, and abandoned animals. And I wonder if the cure will be more devastating than the disease. Mason thinks about the thousands of people who died and their families. He believes it would have been much worse if our state hadn’t spent the last two months locked down.
Both of us know only time will decide. When this pandemic is finally behind us, we’ll be able to look back with clarity and truly assess the situation. My hunch is the answer lies somewhere in-between. How can we protect the vulnerable without putting millions and millions of people out of work?