This is a guest post by Kendal resident Judy Geiser
Lately I’ve been pondering two thoughts that seem to me almost contradictory. One is that although we are isolating ourselves, we are not alone. When I face a personal illness or crisis, it is easy for me to feel lonely and even slightly angry at the world which is going on without me. A pandemic is different. I am sharing it with everyone, with the whole world, in fact. When I wake up at night, and my heart is pounding with anxiety, I can be pretty sure that there are some other Kendal residents who are also lying awake in fear, and I can imagine people in New York and Italy and South Korea who are having the same experience. I can send them positive thoughts and can also take a kind of comfort in our common humanity and in the solidarity that I feel with others.
With the rest of the world, I share the fear of loss and of illness, but there is much of the larger experience that I am not sharing at all. I’m surrounded by the walls of privilege. Even though my savings funds have gone down, I am not afraid of losing my job and being unable to support my family. At Kendal, I complain about my isolation and even about the soreness of my hands after all the washing I’m doing, but if I were stuck in a refugee camp, I would have no room to isolate myself, to try to protect myself from infection. I would probably have no clean water to wash my hands. At Kendal, I don’t even have to make big decisions about what I need to do to care for myself. I am assured that there is a team of people working to keep me safe, and even comfortable.
I’m so used to my privileges, which include indulging my personal preferences, that despite my gratitude for all the care I’m receiving, I still sometimes hear a whining, complaining voice in my head. “Oh yes,” it says, “Kendal will shop for staples for us, but the milk on their list is not the 2% organic that I prefer to drink, and they surely won’t have my brand of coffee. And I’d really like to eat more bright green vegetables than all these starches. And I wish they didn’t include dessert with every package!” And then I remember those around the world, living now and in other times of plague and war, who are worried about their hunger pangs and not their culinary preferences or a few insignificant inconveniences.
I have always thought of myself as a grateful person, and I have thought that I was aware of the privileges of my life. In this situation, I recognize how much I still have to learn about both gratitude and privilege. May the experience of the pandemic serve to enlarge my perspective and my heart.