When I was four years old I needed surgery on my left eye. Before going to the hospital, I got a new doll. It had a string in its back you could pull and as you released it the doll said one of several phrases. I would hold that doll close and listen as she talked to me. Cuddling with her brought comfort.
One night a nurse came to the side of my bed thinking I was crying. She took my doll away telling me "we couldn't have that kind of noise at night now could we." I didn't feel too kindly about her, even though she was doing it to keep the room quiet so other children could sleep. All I knew was I no longer had my item of comfort.
Seeking comfort is natural. It offers strength and causes us to feel contented and more relaxed. Comfort denotes warmth, security and feelings of well-being. It's why we search for it in aromas, childhood objects, soothing music, familiar books and, of course, food. Sales of pasta and rice rose in triple digits over the last few weeks as people turned to favorite comfort dishes, while in many markets it was hard to get your hands on yeast as so many sought a classic comfort—bread. Board games got dusted off and jigsaw puzzles sold out. Outdoor Christmas lights were re-hung following the lead of networks who re-ran their slate of Christmas movies in a time when people were looking for something calming, nostalgic and yes, comforting.
But what would it feel like being unable to seek familiar comforts because, quite frankly, they were not there to begin with? More than simply serving as a catalyst to examine what we search for as comfort, perhaps this is a watershed moment inviting us not to get too comfortable too quickly with how things once were.
In some places, people got a tiny glimpse into what food shortages or food insecurities look like. Limited access to products we normally have at our fingertips is something we need to remember, particularly since 820 million people around the world confront hunger on a daily basis. That was the reality long before we heard of this virus and it will be true long after we realize we've gone months without thinking about it.
In witnessing the mobilization of health care resources to target the threat, many have been impacted by the cancelation of appointments, the disruption of treatments and the delay of surgeries. It has been difficult for many, yet it is the everyday norm of 400 million people who have no access to any kind of even the most basic health care.
An oft repeated refrain is a desire for things to return to the way they used to be. That's understandable. But instead of yearning for what was, perhaps we could seek out something different; something better based on what we've experienced.
Maybe we won't take for granted—or treat as optional—our opportunity to gather with our faith community for worship. We won't complain so quickly about our jobs and instead be thankful for employment and the team who help bring the best out of us. We won't put off time with family or search for excuses to get out of social obligations but revel instead in how great it is simply to be together.
It often takes a disruption to how we are living to cause us to take another look at…well...how we are living. What we discover can change everything. Not for ourselves, but far more importantly, for others. We would do well to take with us the glimpses into what, for us, is an unprecedented aberration while for so many others is yet another struggle to add to all the other painful things that make life so very uncomfortable.
Before we seek to return too quickly to our own comfort, we could make an effort to take hold of our peek into what makes life difficult in places we may fail to give much notice to. Let's not be too hasty in grabbing back what makes us comfortable until we sense the urgency of needing to alleviate the overwhelming discomfort of others. That's my outlook.