From Pastor Cecil Van Niejenhuis
Physical distancing has been with us for many weeks already. You can see the distance marked out very carefully on the outside sidewalks where people line up to get into stores, and at the checkout lines. There are arrows on the floors, directing traffic. We are paying attention to how many people can be allowed into a room, a store, a church, a stadium—and how to ensure that we give each other the necessary space. It’s more space than usual. Extra space.
Some of that is just fine. I remember an episode of Seinfeld where they focused on “close-talking.” When someone speaking with you stands too close, and you can feel like your personal space has been invaded—you want some more space! Close-talkers don’t seem to respect an appropriate social boundary.
On the other hand, there are boundaries which we are feeling more powerfully now than ever before. The boundary between countries, preventing face to face conversation. The boundaries that keep us from visiting inside of hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care residences. We wave through windows; we Zoom on video. But what we really want is closer-talking. As it is, the extra space we are forced to provide can make us feel distant. And, it’s true, there are a lot of folks who have not been able to be right close with the ones they love during sad or difficult days.
There are always two sides to things. At least two sides. Sometimes more. In this moment, I am trying to think of the extra space needed, in as many positive ways as possible. There’s a physical dimension to it, so we provide each other the physical distancing so as to be respectful and wise about the way the virus is spread. That’s for my own benefit and for the benefit of others.
There’s a spiritual dimension here too. Extra space can be a nice way of reminding ourselves that it’s a challenging time for everyone, and that means people feel the stress, and aren’t always functioning at their best. Extra space is a nice way of describing grace. A little more leeway, patience—a little more space. A little more grace.