Monthly Archives: March 2020

Unprecedented: adjective

“never done or known before.”

The landscape looks different depending on where you stand. This is applicable in wrestling with a vacation destination and equally so when contending with the truth from an event in our past..

I am struck by the extreme vantage points as I read the opinions of close friends, acquaintances, people from my past and present. There’s a militant strength on both sides. “Take this seriously,” shout some of you. “Make the media stop freaking us out! It’s just the flu,” others scream. Then there are those dancing somewhere in the middle posting memes about beer and toilet paper, giving us a chance to smile and breathe if only for a split second.

The master bedroom of our house is on the third floor and our house sits atop a hill overlooking South London. We stand at our window in the early morning and look down on rooftops, tendrils of steam rise into the cold London air, like flags rising on masts to furl in the wind and declare life below. On our way to bed, we look out our window and a sea of millions of colorful lights twinkle in the distance like fairies watching over the masses. Skyscrapers become the stuff of puzzles. The lyrics of Bette Midler’s song “From a Distance” find a home in reality.

From our third floor rooftop view, the world looks normal. All is as it should be. Reality is setting the alarm to get up for work. Scheduling a trip to the theatre next weekend. Making dinner reservations at our favorite Turkish restaurant down the street. Only two floors down, the view changes drastically. On the first floor, images flash on the news and words from solemn strangers paint a far different picture. Most recently, a story of a neighborhood in Italy, the inhabitants have been forced to stay in their homes under a government lockdown. Can we even imagine? And yet, they have been heard singing, blending their voices and instruments into the streets below. Uniting through music and keeping them together as their economy, plans, maybe even dreams shatter around them.

I wonder if this whispers of a previous time. Never before have I known anyone to have to cancel a memorial service for their 45 year old husband who has died suddenly out of a conscious decision not to put anyone at risk. March 16th’s memorial for Dave has been cancelled. There was a wedding in three weeks, now postponed indefinitely. The bride saddened, mourning a day that was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.

I was speaking with a colleague yesterday (the UK hasn’t suspended school yet) and she used the word “unprecedented.” It definitely feels like that. Unchartered waters. High school sports suspended. Schools around the world canceled regardless of weather conditions. And yet, history whispers of moments when such chaos and confusion have altered lives, stories, and families. It is a rare moment to meet a survivor of global tragedy. Perhaps for that reason, we steel our hearts and our determination.

It would be much easier to stay on the third floor with the expansive view of a silent sparkling civilization. Of calm and peace and rationality. Much easier. And although even my parents cannot recall a time when food and goods were rationed, such living conditions are not entirely unprecedented. History is awash with stories across the globe of opportunities missed. When tragedy has struck and the thin vein of humanity went into hiding. In this current unprecedented moment, we have opportunity again.

I hope and pray we allow ourselves the space for our opinions to change. I hope and pray that if things do change, we transfer our strength of opinion into strength of community and remember, unprecedented or not, and like it or not, life is only lived out on the bottom floor.