This week, five things I’m paying attention to as an early 30s parent of a young child in Kansas. In other words, the things that run through my mind when I try to sleep at night.
1. Parents. I’ll be blunt—I don’t have time for anything else—we’re not OK. I see it on Facebook or hear it from friends every day. Whether we’re struggling to put food on the table because of unemployment, struggling to put in work hours from home and manage school work at the same time without neglecting housekeeping, managing our own anxieties about the future and trying to remain patient, or dealing with constant questions about “when can we go to the park?” Some days it feels overwhelming, and more and more often I hear the f word—failure. Many parents are feeling like failures in these extremely challenging times. So please, check in with the parents and families you know in your neighborhood and congregation. Offer to drop off a meal for a single mom who doesn’t have the usual support of her extended family, send an encouraging message to parents who are struggling with the educational needs of elementary and middle school children, or simply pray that the overwhelmed and exhausted experience an extra measure of God’s grace, peace and patience today.
2. Children. Just as parents are struggling, many children are struggling right now. Whether it’s from a lack of food, safe environment, parental supervision, adjusting to a life without school and friends, fear of getting sick or reacting to the emotional state of the adults in their lives, this is a hard time. What can you do to remind children they are precious, loved and important to you and to God? My church has started a “Journeying with our Children” initiative that pairs adult volunteers (with appropriate screening and transparency) with children to send letters through the mail reminding them of God’s love and the love and care from their church family. Could you write letters or in other ways communicate God’s peace and love in these different days?
3. Vulnerable populations. My husband works at a long-term care facility and as our state begins to plan for re-opening (as soon as Monday), I am concerned about what this means for his work family. Every week at work he comes in contact with 100 or more people. Any one of them might spread COVID-19 before realizing it. I pray for the elders who have become family to the staff there, and I pray people continue to be aware of protecting those who cannot leave the facility and cannot control who they come in contact with, as well as the workers and their families. As we reopen, what sacrifices will these families need to make in order to make sure they do not carrying illness to work with them?
4. What we share and post. I am so very frustrated by how politicized and polarized every action of our leaders has become. When a governor or other leader makes a decision they believe is in the best interest of the health of the community, it is not because they are Republicans or Democrats; can we set that aside and focus on caring for one another in love? Or at least think before we share news statuses, or other posts that might not be loving (or might anger others)? And it’s also good to check the source for sharing anything, whether COVID-19 related or otherwise.
5. New ways of doing faith formation—vacation Bible school, anyone? As we look forward to the summer and fewer restrictions in terms of our activities, we recognize that until a vaccine is readily available, things will look a little different. We’re already talking about how we might do vacation Bible school in a distance format. We need creative thinkers and dreamers to helps us envision new ways of doing vacation Bible school this summer and faith formation classes in the fall for disciples of all ages. How can we continue to learn in community what it means to faithfully follow Jesus in our daily lives? If you have ideas, don’t be afraid to share your ideas with your congregation’s leaders.
Jennie Wintermote is a full-time mother and part-time librarian for the Western District Conference Resource Library in North Newton, Kansas. She is a member of First Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas.