The hush and murmur of the crowd washed through the living room as my friends and I finally got do to something we had been longing for: watch baseball. And as the camera fixed over the right field wall focused behind the pitcher, we got the first of a few surprises: cardboard cutout people. Throughout Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, were cardboard figures of people. And we realized that the sounds of the crowd milling and chatting around the stadium were recorded and being added to the broadcast. Almost no one was there.
My two “pod” friends and I were gonna be OK, though. Because we had each gone to the store at the advice of the meteorologists and our panicking friends and gotten more food that we could probably each eat in two weeks. We followed the news reports and saw the very scary image of a wild storm bearing down on Maui after just missing Big Island. And we would be next. But as the pitches sailed over the plate in an empty stadium, hour-by-hour, we started to sense that nothing was happening. Almost no storm was there.
More and more I think people are asking, “What is this year? What is 2020?” It’s only July and people are asking for a do-over. It’s almost like we are all going to agree that this year will be an exclamation in the future, like if something bad happens we might say, “Well, it could be worse. It could be 2020.” Or if something goes wrong in a day I might yell, “Geez, what is this, 2020?” And I’m not making light of the very real ways that calls for change and justice are rising louder than ever before or the ways public health is in crisis. Not at all.
We are witnessing municipalities addressing policing at the structural level for the first time in their history. We are witnessing governments consider reparations for citizens whose lives were impacted by the sin of slavery. We are witnessing the devastating impact of willful ignorance and practiced inaction in the face of scientific facts, and watching some people actually begin to see that some facts have no alternative. And this contrast is at the heart of what I think so many are asking: “Will we ever go back to the way things were before?”
I know for me it’s too soon to say. I won’t be tuning in to any more cardboard cutout, fake noise baseball games any time soon. I know I will hold to the momentum in so many parts of a nation that need reckonings. I know this year isn’t really one anyone will ever forget. And we’re only about halfway through. I also know that Sunday, as my two friends and I complained about the game and laughed at the storm that never was, the sky shifted. The gray cleared to deep azure and the setting-sun orange wrapped the world in rare, sharp light. Neighbors came outdoors and sat in their truck beds together to watch, too. To watch something that happens every single day, but on that day, on that Sunday, it was something new. Almost like no sunset had ever happened before.
Blessings of peace, my friends.
Rev. T. J.