It’s been one long year of feeling empty, hasn’t it? At the beginning of this you know what, Papa and I flew back from our jaunt to Arizona to find empty highways on the way home from the airport. Eerily empty roads because lockdowns had begun in our state.
Following that, our empty nest became a little less empty though as our young granddaughter basically moved in with us for just about two months because her mama (our daughter) is a hospital nurse and was in danger of being exposed to the plague (she was).
Even though our lives were full of caring for our Little One, our hearts felt void and empty because we couldn’t see our family near or far, couldn’t visit friends, couldn’t attend worship services at church, couldn’t enjoy social gatherings, couldn’t lead Bible study in person, couldn’t shop for groceries or anything else except online, couldn’t travel except for nearby drives in the car….the list of could nots just seemed to empty happy thoughts out of our beings like a pitcher pouring water out until the very last drop.
The emptiness left us bone dry. Finally, a little break from that void occurred during the last days of summer. Our family braved an opportunity to venture to an ocean beach for a week-long sequester in a rented house with all of us congregating – Papa and Mama, three adult offspring, two of their spouses, and our precious three little grandchildren.
That emptiness felt in our family from not seeing one another in person for so long vacated and in its place joy and love and gratitude filled the void as we relished just being together as a family. That was in August 2020 – five months into lockdowns, restrictions, and social distancing.
Yet more empty months continued to drone on in our world. No holiday get-togethers, no Christmas shopping except online, no family outings, no mingling with other fellow humans. Instead, we hid behind masks if we did venture outside our homes and tried to express friendliness, compassion, and respect for our fellow emptiness sufferers with our eyes in place of our smiles.
The toll taken on our fellow human beings has been heavy. So many have suffered through job losses, closing of family-owned businesses, mental stresses resulting in depression, despondency, and substance abuse, isolation from loved ones, not to mention losing those who became ill and succumbed.
And as insufferable as all that is, the toll on our spirits is also most grave.
We humans have surrendered to sheer fear. We’ve further divided ourselves – the masked vs. the unmasked. We cower anxiously from other humans we encounter, suspicious of one another, and even angry because of their actions or inaction. And although the onset of a touted vaccine to ease the burden has arrived, we still consider one another with disdain – the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.
When will it stop? This feeling of emptiness that eats away at every one of us? That looms large over us even yet? That occupies space in our minds and in our lives?
“Why does the feeling of emptiness occupy so much space?” ~ James de la Vega
We hope for light at the end of the tunnel. Slowly, we see it within our grasp. Restaurants opening up for dine-in customers, in-person worship services, entertainment venues re-opening somewhat, more folks shopping outside of their online routines.
Just recently, Papa and I walked through a nearby shopping mall – a place we haven’t stepped inside for over a year. And to say I was shocked doesn’t do justice to how I reacted. We were two of only a handful of people there. But what stunned me even more was the fact that the place was empty.
Empty. Not just of people, but of stores. A once thriving place of commerce now resembled a ghost town. Storefront after storefront closed for good. Permanently. Completely dark and empty of merchandise. Absent. Gone. Depleted. How many people lost their jobs there, their livelihood?
This emptiness, this void we’ve all encountered for so long is enough to shake your beliefs, chip away your confidence in returning to ‘normal,’ unhinge your trust. But this vacuum of hollowness and those vacant places in that shopping area remind me that our lives don’t have to be devoid. It’s only so if we choose it.
“In all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.” ~ Carl Sagan
We can and still must reach out to others with care, with kindness, with love. As a believer in Christ, I am called to do so.
We are not empty shells just existing in a daze of futility. We have souls to reach out to God for help to cope and persevere. We have minds to think of ways to help one another. We have hands and feet to serve each other. We have hearts to feel compassion and care for those suffering more than we are. We have mouths to speak to one another with words of respect and to utter prayers for recovery for our brothers and sisters in our nation and across the world.
And we must use them to fill the empty void in others’ lives as well as our own.
“Always show kindness and love to others. Your words might be filling the empty places in someone’s heart.” ~ Mandy Hale