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Normal, but not Normal

by Amy Hill

Most Wednesday mornings I head to Operation Give Back, to work in the food pantry. Arriving around 8:30 a.m., four or five of the food pantry volunteers assess recently donated fresh produce, meat, and dairy items that are divided up according to family size for registered families in need in the Montgomery/Blue Ash area. Other small groups of volunteers are dividing up Panera Bread donations that go to elementary school children or assembling take-home bags of pasta, sauce, tuna fish, mac 'n' cheese, - you get the idea.

Today was a "normal, but not normal day." Only three of us were there, doing the 6-foot social distancing dance around each other. We were "locked in" – a new procedure approved by the Free Store and Board of Health. We assembled boxes of canned goods, fresh produce, and frozen meat. A local McDonald's generously donated coupons for free adult meals and happy meals. Each family member got a coupon. La Soup, Pipkin's, and the Free Store were generous. Strawberries, pineapples, apples, oranges, blueberry muffins. Frozen meat and cheese from local grocery stores. Sounds like a lot, but families are allowed one visit per month.

Once a family arrives in the parking lot, Amy Hausfeld, the Executive Director, unlocked the front door, put the boxes outside, came back in, and relocked the door. (The usual visiting and chitchat didn't happen.)

Normal, but not normal.

Working by myself for most of the morning, I kept rewinding the music from Sunday morning's online service in my head (occupational hazard of a musician). The 'earworm' of the morning was: 

The King of Love my Shepherd is, who's goodness faileth never, 

with the harmonization: Erik Satie's Gymnopedie Number 1. 

Over and over for four hours: 

In death's dark vale, I fear no ill with Thee dear Lord beside me, 

Thy rod and staff, they comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.

Normal, but not normal.

Clare Salter, my colleague who was working 12 feet away, was commenting on all of the churches that are closed. She asked me if I thought that people would return to churches once this surreal time passes. My stream of consciousness took me to the time when George was deployed by the FBI to Manhattan to serve as chaplain for the recovery effort after 9/11/2001. I went with him. We arrived October 30th and were there for ten days. The parish of Trinity Wall Street which was adjacent to the towers suffered structural damage and it was closed for two months. Its first service was November 6, All Saints' Sunday. Along with St. B. parishioner Tom Hammons, we arrived early to get a seat and it was a good thing. It was packed. I told Clare that I was confident that people will flock to their churches, mosques, and synagogues once it is safe to return. In the meantime, we continue our new routine:

Normal, but not Normal.

And so, through all the length of days thy goodness faileth never:

Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise within thy house forever.


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