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A little humor and hope to help you cope.

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Corona Home Church
By Kelly Swanson

So my great Aunt Florita has for years been begging us to go to church with her, and we have come up with a million of the most creative reasons NOT to. Despite the fact that apparently her church is “world famous” ever since brother Nester saw Jesus on the side of the lawn mower shed out back of the church. She showed us a picture, and we thought it looked more like Sonny Bono. I’m just saying.

So now, thanks to this whole Corona business, none of us could seem to find a good excuse not to attend her Corona church service they were holding on video. I mean what you can say, “Sorry Aunt Florita, I can’t come because we were planning this weekend on heading down to the basement?” One more downside to this whole quarantine business is that everybody KNOWS you’re home.  So we had to say yes. And last Sunday, we all went to Aunt Florita’s Zoom church service.

The whole idea of home church felt strange to begin with. Does church count as church when it’s not in a church? How do we do communion? And how do we pass the plate? Do we still have to dress up? Can you have a sacred ceremony if you’re in your PJ pants and slippers?  Are we allowed to go to the bathroom? Something just doesn’t feel right about it.  And doing it this way is gonna bring in a bunch of strangers from all over the place – who are used to all kinds of church  – some not even used to church at all. How’s this gonna work if people don’t know the rules? And how’s the choir gonna sing? We all know that Norma Jean has a fit if she doesn’t get at least one solo.

But there we all were anyway, some just joining out of morbid curiosity. They said they got more virtual attendance than they ever got in person. Probably because Aunt Florita had sent her invitation out public on social media.  Which in hindsight, she now realizes was probably not the best idea. You can say your church welcomes all – but you have no idea what lives out there in cyber space. I’m just saying. You’ll see.

But finally everybody settled into their own little video squares, and some little old church lady was having a fit saying somebody was sitting in her square. That everybody knows this is where she sits in home church and she has a right to it cause her family helped build this church. And that one guy over in the top right – was sitting in a boat and holding a beer. That’s not fair. You can’t have church on a boat, and who told you boating is that essential?  You can’t drink in church!  Maybe wine ‘cause that is spiritual. And Mary Lou we can see you by the way – you are not invisible. We know you’re doing sit ups. How dare you exercise in the house of the Lord. Oh wait. Who’s house is this technically?

And Nester never should have hit “Share Screen” – there’s just some things better left private – and now he’s got his name added to every prayer chain in the county. And it was hard to tell who the Pastor was looking at when he was talking about sins of the flesh but I’m pretty sure it was Nester. 

The pastor starts talking about grace and how we should be kinder to others, but it was kind of hard to hear because somebody’s kids were fighting in the background and they obviously don’t know how to mute themselves – and then somebody starts whispering – no surprise, they can’t keep their kids quiet in real church either. I’m just saying. People just don’t know how to discipline these days. Spare the rod. Finally somebody muted her. Now THAT is a benefit of video church for sure.

We were really low on prayer concerns after we got through the obvious big ones, ‘cause nothing cuts down on local gossip more than a quarantine. As Nester said,  “Ain’t nobody cheating on nobody this week.”

A couple of extra people showed up late – typical. And then about three quarters of the way in, this bearded guy pops up on the screen – naked ! I’m not kidding. Naked! Who ever heard? Well naked except for one strategically place Christmas sock over his you know what – that was covered in blinking lights like a tacky gas station ornament.  

I heard that’s getting popular on Zoom – naked people video bombing. Apparently this guy does this on purpose to shake people up. And he just sat there looking all calm with his loins blinking away like a happy reindeer.

I’m sure he thought the joke was on us, for about half a second, and then the believers of the Holy Redeemer set in to do what they do best – save his soul – some started praying for him out loud while others started flipping furiously through their Bibles to find an applicable verse for a time such as this. And the pastor says, “Son, all are welcome” and you could tell he was trying hard not to look at the blinking lights.

And then Aunt Florita who’s rolling in on 100, and about three beats behind the rest of us, finally sees him and she starts belly laughing and pointing at him, and telling him he should find a more impressive hobby. My cousin Nester asked if he was single. The Drake twins started praying for his soul. And Uncle Tater said, “You wanna see naked, I’ll show you naked. And the rest was just a blur.”  And my cousin Bert says she swears she knows that guy from when she worked over at the free clinic. Naked guy finally couldn’t take it anymore, and he hopped off the call while someone yelled, “God loves you, but he wants you to wear pants next time you come to church. Next Sunday, same time.” And I’m pretty sure everybody marked their calendars to come back next week. Just to see…

Took a while for the Pastor to find his place again in the sermon. And we about fell out laughing when his Bible verse referenced fruit of the loins. And wouldn’t you know the hymn that day was This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Which I think proves that the man upstairs has a sense of humor.

Finally the Pastor started wrapping things up, cause people were sneaking glances at their watches. I guess even virtual church goers expect a prompt conclusion. And he was telling us that we would get through this tough time. And that the world still had good in it, which led to a couple of eye rolls, and then everybody’s faces froze. All at once. For a minute I thought it was the Rapture and had I been left behind. But no. Just a bad internet connection.

Just like that. Church stopped. And time was suspended. And his last words just hung in the air above his frozen expression – the world still has good in it. Pretty ironic considering everything that’s going on. I mean call me bitter, but the words are easier to say than they are to see. Tell THAT to the person who just lost everything.

I don’t know about you, but when I look out my window things look pretty darn gloomy.

The same window I’ve been looking out for 67 days.  And I didn’t really see anything good.

And then I heard it whispered in my ear.

Look closer.

And I did. And I still didn’t see anything.

And I heard, Then look closer.

But all I saw was a little old lady walking up the street holding a handful of masks. Never saw her come out of her house until a month ago. But there she is again today walking at the speed of drying paint, clutching her little floral hand made masks. She sits at her sewing machine all day, every day, slowly moving the fabric through the machine. And then when she’s got a handful made, she shuffles up the street, with her shaky cane and that dog who’s seen better days, and hangs a set of masks on the mailbox. Today it looks like she’ll get to three houses before it’s time to head back and call it a day.

She reminded me of that story about the old lady who sat at her window every day waving at the kids as they got off their school bus. Every. Single. Day. She’d just sit there waving. Until the buses just stopped coming. And now the kids who are going to graduate with no stage to walk across, came and stood on her lawn one more time – for one last wave.

And the little boy down the street who turned five.  And didn’t get a bouncy house. Or a party. And still doesn’t understand why his Nana can’t come to see him on his birthday. Stands at a window looking out while his mother says, “Ssshhhhh.  Look closer. And you’ll see them.”  And slowly coming down the street is a parade of police cars with honking sirens and flashing blue lights and cheers of “happy birthday” as he receives his own private parade from the men in blue.

And I think to myself – still a wonderful world.

And a thin man with circles under his eyes who has finally gotten his breath back – leans out of his apartment window on Broadway all those stories up  – and sings his infamous solo in jeans and a t-shirt – as beautifully as he did on that stage when the theater was filled – to the small street audience of masked angels in blue scrubs.

A family argues around a kitchen table as they learn new math and wonder what ever happened to carrying the one? As blondes turn gray, and men turn into Chia pets. Exercising and eating go into overdrive. If he chews any louder she swears she will smother him. If she doesn’t change those yoga pants he will go insane. The sighs get louder. And yet. They don’t mean as much as they did before. The news flashes another chart of statistics….and suddenly what’s one more gray hair?

We watch into the computer windows as a man shares a new song on his piano. A woman replies on the thread with a new painting. While this family learns to cook. A choir joins together like angels perfectly timed – as they each sit in different places from all over the world. Yet their voices find each other and reach our cluttered living rooms – from tiny screens that one day were destined to ruin us all, but today bring us hope.

And a joke goes round the world and back again. And we remember to laugh.

And I think to myself – still a wonderful world.

The quiet EMT crew standing around another ambulance, wearing last week’s mask, heads bowed in the corona pose they know too well. For there is always time to pay respect. It’s just what we do.

The unexpected car that rolls into the driveway and lingers while a masked lady hops out and waves. And leaves a box of home baked cookies on your doorstep.  No need to come out. We just had extra. And somehow those cookies are the best you ever tasted as you watch her drive away down the street. And to think you once thought her rude. 

A business gone, a dream broken, a summer painted over..…but look – just beyond the fear and unexpected-  is the glimmer of something shiny. Something that always springs eternal. Hope.

I guess what the Pastor was trying to say – the bigger message in all of this – is that when times get tough. When we’re so sick of staring at these same walls. Maybe it’s time to move to the window.

Don’t see it? Look closer. I promise. It’s still a wonderful world.

5 Responses

  1. A beautiful story to start the day. You always bring every story full circle, and I feel the pace slow at the end. I hang on every word as the end nears and feel the warmth in your last words. Thank you Kelly!

  2. Hi Kelly,
    We went to you day long great presentation a couple of years ago here in NYC
    Nice to see you again.

    1. Thank you, Sima. It’s nice to know my stories can touch a heart. Hope you are doing well. And check out my Girls Night IN! It’s going to be a hoot and will touch your soul again.

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