The word “essential” is powerful these days. Governments and citizens are asking—and debating—which businesses and organizations are “essential” and which ones are not.
We could dedicate thousands of words debating this topic, a hot one right now. Social media is filled with angst and frustration over authorities’ arbitrary decisions on essentialism. But for a moment, let’s step back. Because over the last several weeks, we’ve had a unique—and surprising—opportunity to figure out what is essential in our own lives.
Some random thoughts on “Essential” after four weeks of quarantine:
Essential: Friends and family
The Walden fam is fortunate during this time; Jenn and I and our two youngest boys live in one home, while a daughter, son-in-law and grandson live next door. And, our other daughter moved back home when graduate school shut down. So, we’ve got eight of us gathering almost every day for cookouts (including a s’mores baking contest), basketball games of H-O-R-S-E, Jackbox (silly, but easy to play with a TV and a smartphone), and brainstorming sessions on a website we’re creating. This pandemic helped us see how much we care for each other.
And, with my mother (age 90) under lock-down in her assisted living facility, we’re mindful of how lonely life can be when we don’t have these connections. We’re able to stay in touch creatively, but it’s not the same as the human touch.
Non-essential: Sports on TV and . . . most of TV
I thought I’d never say this. And do not remind me of this when we go back to “normal,” whatever and whenever that is. But—deep breath—I haven’t missed watching basketball, baseball, hockey, golf and (so far) football on TV. We haven’t had the TV on much at all, except to watch some Hallmark mysteries and a PBS series we’re slowly binge-watching.
Shocking admission: If I didn’t have 98% of TV, I’d survive just fine. After a few months I might look like Tom Hanks in Castaway, but I’d be alive. Just let me watch the last season of “Poldark” on Masterpiece Theater.
Essential: Personal growth
Jenn and I are listening to a lot of podcasts during this time, trying to learn and grow in our faith and in life overall. And, we’re recording several podcasts to be released soon. We’re reading more, talking more—we’re growing. We’re seeing the opportunity to take advantage of less busyness.
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Non-essential: “Getting out”
Don’t get me wrong. When this is over, we’re going out to eat—somewhere. But all those trips to run out for a quick errand dwindled to nothing and it didn’t matter at all. I’ve been out of the house three times in three weeks and . . . don’t care.
This one surprised me. But as we prepare my home office as a staging ground for my role as “Virtual Emcee” for Heartbeat’s Vision 2020 Conference next week (coming to a laptop or phone near you), I’m seeing the value of this stuff I took for granted.
With technology, a massive conference can be moved from a hotel in Seattle to our offices, living rooms and back porches. It’s quite an undertaking for the Heartbeat team and I’m sure there have been challenges—but it’s on and I’m thankful. Just 10 years ago, this would have been impossible. Today, it’s just a matter of finding creative solutions.
Technology keeps us in touch so we can talk, see each other’s faces and continue moving forward during this season.
Oh, and my boys love playing games with their friends in a place we now call, “The Man Cave.”
Relatedly essential: Children
My 12-year-old is helping us set up my office, offering insight and “how-to’s” on much of the technical gizmos. My millennial daughter is helping on sound. Without them, ain’t nothing happening around here. Enough said.
Because we’re now living with the sun—meaning we go to bed early—alarms aren’t needed anymore. Which is one less noise to deal with. Color me thankful.
Essential: Regular haircuts
Because I cannot get a haircut (unless I’m Chicago’s mayor), my hair is threatening to overtake the collars on my shirts. The lovely Jennifer may have to start hacking away back there, or the mullet is coming back in style. This, my friends, is an emergency.
Non-essential: Fast food
Jeepers, I didn’t think I’d say this, either. Looking back at our family bank statements pre-pandemic, we had a lot of reasons to hit the fast food joints. We were running to and from activities, so having the time to fix a meal was a challenge. So, let’s hit (name fast food joint here) on the way, right?
Today, sandwiches are just fine. I didn’t need that fattening burger, after all. However, Chick-Fil-A is the exception. If Jesus had Chick-Fil-A with His disciples (the Bible doesn’t say He didn’t), it’s still essential.
Essential: The pregnancy help community
In this journey through “essential” and “non-essential,” let’s keep in mind what truly matters.
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The pregnancy help community—all of you reading this—are essential in every sense of the word. Whether your doors are open, you continue to reach out and provide hope to vulnerable women and men, opening the door to healthy babies and thriving families.
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When this pandemic becomes a history lesson—and it will—chances are more will need us. Though the “essentialness” of abortion continues to be a hot topic, there’s little doubt fewer are opting for abortion during this time. This means we have an opportunity to step up when this is over.
As all of us walk through this together, let’s continue to encourage each other, assist each other and support each other whenever we can. As we do, let’s keep the faith and stay the course. It’s essential, no matter the circumstances.