When I was a writer for the Winnipeg Free Press I once spent a day on a Manitoba Hutterite colony at the invitation of a Hutterite woman named Clara who said she read my columns and considered me a friend. My visit to the colony was an eye-opening experience that left me reexamining many of my stereotypical ideas about Hutterites.
An article I saw about how the Amish people in Pennsylvania are handling COVID-19 made me think about Clara, as well as the colony members from across Manitoba who were responsible for a wonderful display of Hutterite art I saw at Winnipeg’s Heritage Gallery in October. How were their communities coping with the crisis? I knew communal living was at the very heart of their lifestyle.
A story on CTV news yesterday explained that Manitoba Hutterite colonies are being mindful of public health warnings. They have cancelled church services and school classes and they no longer eat communally. Leaders believe that the support system the colonies provide will help them weather this crisis. They say that faith, hope and love will get them through this challenging time.
I found an interesting article about Dr Glen Klassen a microbiologist who hails from Steinbach. He did a research project for the University of Winnipeg on why double the number of Mennonites died of the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 compared to other ethnic groups. He thinks it was because of the way they attended communal church services held in different villages. Today Mennonite churches, as well as people of most other Manitoba faith groups, are meeting virtually or online.
We talked to our son and his wife on Friday and one of their Saturday projects was going to be recording some music for the online service their church was preparing.
I’ve mentioned before that I make myself check Fox News every day to see how they are covering the pandemic. Often I am incredulous at some of the things I see, like the newscaster who implied that women’s chief concerns during the pandemic are their inability to get their hair done or have a manicure.
However, I did find an article yesterday about Dolly Parton. My friend Sandy once treated some friends to a Dolly Parton concert here in Winnipeg and I came away with a great deal of respect for Dolly who does amazing work to promote literacy in America. Dolly was interviewed about the crisis by a Fox reporter and she said, “I think God’s trying to hold us up to the light so we can see ourselves and see each other through the eyes of love, and I hope we learn that lesson. I think that when this passes we’re all gonna be better people.”
A while ago I began a series on my blog where I looked for good things happening in our world and I practised the drawing skills I am trying to develop to illustrate them. I need to get back to that. But if you’d like to see my Good News posts, you can check them out here. I think there is probably no time when we have needed good news more.
And speaking of good news my cousin Cindy posted on Facebook yesterday that together with his students her son-in-law Landon Grace who is an engineering professor at North Carolina State University has figured out a way to design and produce a face mask for doctors and nurses that provides a great deal more protection than the N95 masks they are currently using. Landon and his students at the university plan to make 5000 shields in the next few days. You can read the news article about that here.
I had a long phone chat with a good friend yesterday and she said she has faith that God will get us through this crisis. I told her I think God is just shaking her head at our stupidity. We were given this beautifully created world and we didn’t look after it and messed it up. We were given intelligent minds to be used in ways that would improve the lives of everyone and we used that intelligence to make better weapons. We were given ample warning that this day was coming but we stubbornly refused to listen. My friend replied, “But look MaryLou, despite that God still gave us this gorgeous sunny day to enjoy.” What can you say in the face of such optimism?