In today’s social norms, folks often measure and compare personal experiences or events by listing them in a personal top five. Whether it’s their top five foods, movies, books, R&B albums, rappers, or whatever (the categories are literally endless), you can tell a lot about someone, or yourself, from compiling and analyzing such a list.
For me, my personal top five list of life transforming incidents revealed things that even I didn’t expect. The lifestyle devastations caused by Covid-19, or Coronavirus, would surely be vaulted to the top of most people’s list, but not mine (at least not yet). Sounds crazy, huh?
Allow me to explain.
For those of us who were adults during 911, we recall the uncertainty in our world immediately after. Would we ever be comfortable enough to travel by air again, or attend a major sporting event or concert? The image of watching the twin towers fall, on live TV, is one that will forever be seared in my mind. But is it in my personal top five? Maybe.
Like many others, we’ve been floored by the loss of a close family member, or the downsizing of a job, a sudden and unexpected home relocation, or even the joys of a birth of a child – my personal top five is crowded with the presence of all the above incidents.
A couple of years ago, after working twenty-plus years for a Fortune 500 company, I found myself without a job. The impact of this abrupt life change on me personally was profound. After 24 years, without realizing it, I came to understand that much of my identity was attached to the company I worked for – and that was a problem. What am I to do now that the attachment no longer exists? In the coming months, many will find themselves struggling with this issue.
For my entire adult life, I’d always wanted to write a manuscript. God would download stories to me that I’d ultimately push aside because, ironically, at the time I’d also happen to have accepted some new position or work assignment. I chose the corporation. But now there is no corporation.
Since enlisting in the Army at 18, I’d always been continually employed, yet here I am, in my mid 50’s and jobless, but with no more excuses. Besides the constant encouragement I still receive from my wife, I’ll always remember the confirmation from my doctor during a routine appointment. “Maybe God wants you to write that book.” I decided to use my uneasy energy to finally complete my manuscript. After that, I planned to dive headlong into finding employment.
I finished writing my first draft on February 19, 2020, just as the coronavirus was beginning to show signs of being a potentially deadly worldwide pandemic. And as it turned, just as I would begin the process of looking to get back out into the world, the world would soon be going into full retreat. Social distancing themselves in a mass, global home lockdown.
For the past year and a half, I’ve been locked in our home, staring into my laptop, writing. Not much has changed in my daily life since leaving my former employer in late 2018. But, like the rest of us, our neighborhood, or towns, the world, have all changed, and changed drastically – and will continue to morph into something fairly unrecognizable from what we’re used to.
I believe that sometimes, when we refuse to make the necessary changes to our lives or our ways of thinking, God will shift things for us. The question is, what will we do with this shift? Will we become more human? More selfish? More charitable, protective, or more beast like? There’s been plenty of evidence of all the above responses already in the past couple of months, with things likely to grow worse before they get better.
It’s during times of extreme uncertainty, whether it be personal, or shared ones like a global pandemic, that faith shows its importance. This particular challenge is bigger, stronger, than any of us. More dangerous and powerful than any earthly government or military force.
Many are feeling an untimely loss of a relative or income, are concerned about future living situations, or the forced absence of therapeutic social interactions, and the dread for what tomorrow will bring. I am not in much of a position to advise. I can only state my plan: to remain prayerful in all things during these life altering times. To go in whatever direction that I’m led by God - no matter how much I may prefer not to.
For me, as of right now, today, the coronavirus is not in my top five, but things can change. My prayers are for the world, and that Covid-19 never enters my list.
Brad Elliott is an Oakland California native and freelance writer. Prior to his 24 years working for a major energy company overseas in Kazakhstan and Nigeria, Brad wrote two articles for Essence magazine, and just completed writing his first novel, Flying Monkeys. Brad lives in Orlando with his wife and their two daughters. Their son and daughter-in-law live nearby in Winter Park, FL.