by Barbara Joy Cooley
For three weeks now, the Cooley household of two has been in strict, self-imposed isolation. As we isolate, I strive to maintain my sense of place in the world. That place has changed a bit lately.
What I do and decide affects others. I think about that. JS normally cleans our house once a month, but I decided not now – not until the pandemic is over. So I texted her (that’s her preferred mode of communication) to ask if she was okay and if she needed money; I said I could pay in advance for cleaning to be done next Fall or whenever. She texted back that she is good, no worries.
A friend later told me that JS is more concerned about being able to stay away from the virus than she is about money. She was frightened when she saw careless people still vacationing on Captiva. I will check back with her again soon.
I was concerned about my younger brother who lives alone in Tampa, because I had not heard from him or seen activity by him on Facebook for several days. So I called him about a week ago. Turns out he was home sick, with a cold. It really was just a cold, and he’s feeling much better now. But if it had been COVID-19, I shudder to think about how alone he would be. I’m going to call him more often.
My older brother is active on Facebook, and he has family around him at home in Iowa. I am not too worried about him. He frequently reacts with a thumbs up to my postings and blog entries. That’s his way of showing he cares. He’s okay.
The other day, I was shocked to realize that my sister had not responded to anything on Facebook for a couple weeks, and I’d not heard from her. She lives in Boston! So I texted her, and then we talked on the phone for quite a while yesterday. She and my brother-in-law are doing a fine job of helping to look after my niece’s bustling household, which includes three little boys. I can imagine – with schools and daycare closed — how chaotic those days must be!
Via Zoom, I attended a board meeting for Committee of the Islands (COTI) last week. While this is a non-partisan political committee, its bylaws state that part of COTI’s purpose is to “maintain and enhance the quality of life” on Sanibel Island. So we voted to donate thousands of dollars to FISH, the local non-profit that helps island residents and workers who are in need during times of crisis like this.
I think of it as my job to reach out to others and to take action to care for them when I can. I am not at all used to being on the receiving end of that reaching out and caring. But that happened in an unexpected way on Sunday.
It happened as I was listening to a worship service that was livestreamed from my church. In his sermon, Pastor John said he’d received a call from Pastor Michael Barnes one day this week. Our church in Sanibel and Pastor Barnes’ church in Fort Myers have the beginnings of a beautiful friendship, I believe. It started when we asked if their church choir would sing at our church for Gospel Sunday in February, the newest in a series of special music Sundays that we like to have. Our church loves special music: MLK Jazz Sunday, Mardi Gras Sunday (Dixieland music), Bluegrass Sunday, a brass quintet on Palm Sunday, and new this year, Gospel Sunday! That was a glorious day.
When the phone call came in, Pastor John thought that maybe some members of Pastor Barnes’ church need assistance from us. But no – Pastor Barnes was calling to check up on us; he was concerned because our church has so many elderly members – those who are particularly at risk during this pandemic.
Upon hearing this, I choked up with tears. My husband and I are not used to being on the receiving end of care, but those times happen. They happened four years ago when my husband was gravely ill with viral pneumonia. Now the situation is not so acute, but we are, indeed, shut-ins – healthy shut-ins so far, but nevertheless, shut-ins. Our place in the world has slightly shifted.
We depend on being able to order groceries delivered weekly by Bailey’s General Store. That’s a God send, literally. I use the “notes” section of the online ordering form to tell the folks at Bailey’s how deeply we appreciate this service. I think of them as I prepare dinner every evening: Richard, Calli, Bailie, Cleo, and many more.
And I wrote a message to Pastor Barnes to thank him for calling Pastor John. He wrote back, “We are all God’s children! Love has no boundaries! Blessings Sister Barbara.”
Blessings to all who love and care for others.