“[Pope] Clement waved his hands in irritation as if to dismiss the very idea.
“The world is crumbling into ruin. Armies are marching.
Men and women are dying everywhere, in huge numbers.
Fields are abandoned and towns deserted.
The wrath of the Lord is upon us and He may be intending to destroy the whole of creation.
People are without leaders and direction.
They want to be given a reason for this, so they can be reassured,
so they will return to their prayers and their obediences.
All this is going on, and you are concerned about the safety of two Jews?”
Iain Pears, The Dream of Scipio
The photo up above is not my own, but it very much could have been because the same image greeted
me at my own Publix this morning—barren emptiness.
I had gone to the grocery store on Monday…I had even posted a little tongue in cheek post
regarding the extent of my “survival” supplies consisting of Oreo cookies and a bottle of Clorox.
My grocery store’s shelves were fully stocked and there was the average number of folks
milling about doing their regular Monday morning grocery shopping.
No big deal.
That all changed over the course of three days.
Thursday night, my daughter-in-law called in a bit of a panic.
They live in Atlanta and their store’s shelves were now all barren.
She wanted to know if I could find any disinfectant wipes, some Lysol spray and some of the
Halo/ cuties for the Mayor as their stores had none.
No problem I proclaimed.
I was on it.
I’d head out in the morning.
“Oh and by the way”, she said, “I looked on Amazon for some Lysol spray…
one can was going for $114 but was currently out of stock.”
Hummmm, I inwardly mused as I felt my brow furrow just a bit.
I flipped on the 10 o’clock news.
On and on went the stories about viruses, pandemics, events being canceled…
all the while my phone kept beeping with the latest alerts and breaking news warnings,
I felt my nerves increasing with each word and alert.
Later, as I readied for bed, I considered actually going on the grocery store
but it was past closing time at my regular store and I really didn’t see any need to
head out to 24-hour stores such as Kroger or Walmart.
I’d just wait until morning before making my run…
Yet I still felt an odd sense of unease.
I knew the schools were going to closed and that meant more
folks heading to the stores.
I spent a fitful night of waking and dreaming.
Restless while dreaming crazy dreams.
By morning, I blamed it all on an underlying sense of heaviness.
Heaviness in part due to the new’s Henny penny nature along
with the real truths playing out before us.
When I got up, I grabbed my phone.
I had to reach over in the night, putting it on silence
when the alerts kept coming in practically non-stop.
I dressed and headed out the door.
When I finally made my way to the major intersection leading into the shopping center, I could already see
that the parking lot was reminiscent of something like an impending storm or
Cars were everywhere.
I grabbed a cart left out near where I parked–I actually had some sanitizer wipes
in my purse so I wiped that puppy down as there were no carts in the store.
Plus they were smack dab out of their wipes for the carts.
The store was bustling with folks dashing around as if they were on some
grocery dash game show.
A few folks, mostly the men shoppers, looked like deer in headlights.
Some shoppers scoured over lists, others simply grabbed.
Gone were those idyllic days of studying which was the freshest piece of fruit
or vegetable. It was now a matter of grabbing before there was nothing left to grab.
Some women pushed bulging carts as some of their things actually spilled
out over the top onto the floor.
There were no baking potatoes nor bags of red or white potatoes.
There were very few fresh bread loaves remaining.
There were several folks deep at the chicken counter while others hovered
nearby waiting to reach in and grab one of the few remaining packs.
The pork chops and cutlets were almost all gone.
Gone was the frozen cod and salmon from Alaska.
Yet no one stood waiting at the fresh seafood counter.
As I made my way further into the depths of the store, while attempting
to navigate my away around those folks who were more like salmon swimming
upstream, I was met with more and more shelves with less than rather than more.
The water aisle was cleaned out.
The eggs and milk shelves were sparse and growing more and more empty
with each passing cart.
Forget Lysol spray.
But I did find some antibacterial hand soap and canisters of Lysol wipes.
I asked one of the managers,
who was taking stock of what remained on the shelves,
about whether or not they’d be getting in any cans of Lysol spray
as I told him about the $114 can on Amazon.
He said he wasn’t certain as they were having to redistribute some
items to their larger stores in other cities around the state.
I did manage however to grab the Mayor’s clementine oranges.
I grabbed some more Oreos of course, as well as some more cans of cat food.
The cat litter shelves were oddly sparse, so I got one of the remaining boxes.
At this point, I cut down the ice cream aisle in order to reach the butter section and
it dawned on me that there was not a single person or cart on this aisle.
Plus the ice cream shelves were all stocked to the hilt.
Granted winter is not the most robust time of year for the purchase of ice cream or
and in turn, it would now appear that during times of crisis…
ice cream is not high on the list of the more robust selling items…
items like potatoes and toilet paper.
So let’s think sustainability in the face of necessity vs treats and goodies.
Finally, with now a bulging cart of my own, I maneuvered over to the checkout lines…
as each lane was brimming with 6 or 7 carts deep of folks just waiting to check out.
An older lady came up behind me with only a handheld basket of a few items.
The express lanes were no longer for 10 or fewer items as they were now fully busting buggy lanes.
I told the woman to please go ahead of me.
She told me, no, but I insisted, telling her I was hunkered down for the long haul
as we both laughed.
She told me that it was just her and her husband and that they didn’t need much.
I explained that I was getting some things to carry to our son’s family in Atlanta
as their stores were practically empty.
We each marveled at the surrealness of all of this.
I’ve since seen the clips, both on-line and from the news,
of folks around the country getting into all-out, knockdown drag outs
in various stores over things such as water and toilet paper.
There are stories of one person’s cart accidentally bumping into another’s cart,
of which caused already raw nerves to spew into a full-blown fury.
So it seems that both panic, along with the unseen and unknown, each tend to bring out some
of the uglier aspects of human beings.
We become selfish and self-centered.
All the while we move into survival mode.
But history teaches us that such times can also bring out our goodness.
We’ll take a look back tomorrow at one of the darkest days of our Nation…
A time when the Nation’s economy had all but collapsed.
A time when the Nation’s workforce was suddenly without work as factories closed from coast to coast
A time when the Nation’s heartland was decimated by soil erosion and a devastating Dust Bowl.
No economy, little to no fresh or readily available foods, a workforce with little to no work,
all the while, the drumbeat of war was growing closer…
and then the unthinkable…an unmitigated and unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor.
Those were frightening dark days.
There was paranoia.
There was fear.
There was hunger.
There was rationing.
And yet, there was hope, there was unity and there was neighbor helping neighbor.
And there remained a deep and abiding faith in something far greater than one’s self.
The past has a great deal to teach us about our future.
It teaches how we can best respond to a crisis…
and how we respond will be key to how we recover…or not—
and in the end, that will be our choice.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”