Guest Post from the Rev. Dr. Mary Luti
Mary Luti has been in Seville, Spain for several weeks and has been writing daily reports describing life in a country that is shut down.
Spain Lockdown Report, Day #33
The unknown makes us afraid, and fear makes us cruel.
The illness caused by COVID-19 is terrible, and too often lethal, but there are worse ways to be sick. Ask the doctor in Barcelona who went down to the garage to get his car and head to the hospital for another grueling shift, only to find it spray painted with the words, “Infectious Rat!”
There are worse infections than COVID-19. Consider the check-out clerk in Cartagena who came home to find a note tacked to her apartment door that read: “We are your neighbors, and we are asking you, for everybody’s good, that you look for somewhere else to live while this is going on, since we know you work at a supermarket, and a lot of people who live here don’t want to run the extra risk you pose.”
There are worse things to fear than this virus. Ask the nurse in Alcázar de San Juan whose anonymous neighbors posted this request: “Hi, neighbor. We know all about the great work you’re doing in the hospital and we’re grateful for it, but you should also be thinking about your neighbors. There are children and old people living here. There are places on the other side of town where they’re putting up health workers. While this is going on, we ask you to think about going there.”
Or the emergency room physician in A Coruña who smelled bleach as he got off the elevator in his condo building. It got stronger as he got closer to his apartment. A couple of his neighbors were disinfecting the area around his door, just to be sure.
In one small town a local butcher was on the receiving end of several anonymous letters, accusing him of infecting people. When the mayor found out, she started a Facebook campaign to support him. She wrote: “There are many good things that will be remembered with gratitude once this is over. Beautiful things, caring gestures, empathy and support. But this will also be remembered. We can’t forget the pain it caused. It’s awful. We won’t forget it. We need to remember what can happen to us when we are afraid.”
Other people have rallied around, too, especially people living in those buildings where the anonymous signs were posted. Different signs are now appearing in the common areas, like this simple one in Murcia that announces in big red letters, “A hero lives here,” followed by more than 50 signatures.
Another supportive sign says: “We are your neighbors and we want to ask you, for the good of all:
–That you don’t lose heart, because our health, our food, our elders, are in your hands…
–That you don’t forget that you are our pride, that half of us would never have the courage to do what you’re doing every day while the rest of us stay home…
–That you don’t hesitate to ask us for anything you need to lighten your load…
and finally, to everyone who would refuse to share life and space with doctors, nurses, health workers, food preparers, checkout clerks, bus drivers, taxi drivers, firefighters, police, etc., etc., we say: Remember, there is no sickness worse than not having a heart.”
The authorities are investigating to see whether these incidents are prosecutable. “To be sure, they are few and far between,” a spokesperson for a national nursing association said, “but they are reprehensible all the same.”
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.