The Blurry Line Between Fear and Compassion

coronavirus-4817450_1920I’m not usually driven by fear or exclusive self-interest. However, back in March I recall hearing accounts of doctors in New York City having to make triage decisions about who would get care and who would not. I believe that, based on my age and a couple of health conditions, I would not be in the front of the line to get treatment if I should get the virus at a time when facilities and equipment are in short supply.

That vision of being denied healthcare because  it would be against the odds touched a nerve of fear in me that I didn’t realize I had. For the last five months, my decisions have been largely driven by trying to avoid any contact with the virus in order to avoid being the subject of such a triage decision. I have essentially not left my home since the middle of March.

I have not written or spoken this directly about these feelings until today. A friend shared a question on her Facebook page that had been inspired by another friend’s question. “When you evaluate what coronavirus risks you’re willing to take, are you thinking primarily about the risk to yourself, or the risk to others?”

During the past few weeks, I have begun to feel uncomfortable with my set of priorities. I have begun to think of it as selfish to be sheltering at home while others deliver my groceries, pick up prescriptions, and run other errands for me. I understand the logic of putting on one’s own mask first; but it feels like I don’t move beyond protecting myself. I have remained safe, at the expense of others needing to deal with those public situations that frighten me.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to sort it all out, but I’m actively looking for ways to get out of the house at least a little bit. I’m taking the smallest of baby steps. I will probably switch from home delivery of groceries to curbside pickup. Next week I hope to  drive my dog to her appointment at the veterinarian and sit in the car while she gets  her annual shots and a nail trim. I will work my way up to picking up my own prescriptions and maybe venturing into the post office to mail a package. And of course I will wear a mask and have hand sanitizer at the ready for all of those adventures Some things are still beyond my imagining: I don’t feel ready for an in-person medical appointment, and I believe it will be a long time before I see the inside of a retail store or restaurant. My hope is to work toward a better balance between concern for my own safety and well-being and concern for those around me.

How are you handling all of this, friends? How do you juggle the similar-but-different concerns of protecting your own well-being and protecting the well-being of those around you?

(Photo: Gerd Altmann at Pixabay)

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Barbara Bruneau

Barbara Bruneau is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She is semi-retired, having previously served congregations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Barbara enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and weaving. She shares her home with cats named Abigail and Bijou.

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