This week my family cancelled our plane tickets to India, summer plans and dreams foiled by COVID. Again. We did the same thing last year, and that one was a trip we’d had in the works for over a year. We’ve learned to always hold these trips loosely, but this year’s cancellation has cut deep.
Yesterday was my son’s 10th birthday, and he especially longs to travel to India. It was most difficult to finalize our decision to cancel because of the 10 year-old boy trying to put on a brave face and make alternative plans for his summer.
Decisions like these break our hearts. There are layers upon layers of loss. Even so, there was really no other choice for us to make as we gathered the daily reports from family members in India telling, all too personally, of the scary days of COVID there.
Bangalore, India is my husband’s heart’s home. For that matter, in one way or another, it is also mine, and my children’s. We go to India because we love it and because it is our home. We do not cancel a trip there quickly, or with ease.
Nonetheless, in case you haven’t heard, despite progress and change, a shifting of moods, and a growing sense of return to a life that we love and remember here in the United States, the pandemic still rages in India.
I did choose specifically that word, rage, as it seems to best describe the chaotic, rushing anger of the virus pushing its way through every last alleyway and crevice of India. Yes, terrifyingly, the COVID pandemic is raging through our home, India. Anyone can tell this is true because of the very present fear and anxiety, and the skyrocketing loss of control in a country that usually seems to thrive on its own natural, chaotic inertia.
The pandemic rages on in India, and it continues to rage through other parts of the world as well. My small family has followed news of India intricately, tied to it with our hearts, and in very similar ways, my prior work with international students has left my ears tuned to world news that mentions Hungary, Myanmar, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Taiwan, Mexico, Malaysia, Canada, New Zealand, and so many countries within Africa. Something is always pinging. And, during these many months of pandemic, the news pinging in has too often become a raucous orchestra of stupefying, difficult news.
The truth of 2020-21 is that we live in a global community. The world is not ours alone. No country, people, or culture is fully left to its own devices. World travel, once limited to missionaries and sailors, has become almost commonplace. Wanderlust, mission trips, study abroad opportunities, traveling for work (around the world), and simply “getting bit by the travel bug,” are regular aspects of life today, especially pre-pandemic. The worldwide web, also, has woven us ever closer together, helping us to feel that the globe is ours to experience, to share, to love.
Today, I deeply recognize that though the world has changed — and change rages on in so many places — because of COVID, our love for the world has not changed. It seems like a thousand months ago, just as COVID was beginning to slap the US with hot spots of COVID, I wrote a post about my family’s recent visit to distant Seattle where my sister and her family live. At that time, February 2020, Seattle was getting slapped by a raging storm of COVID, and soon thereafter, the US was poxed with hot spots. The world has been blighted ever since, India still with weeping wounds.
Like so many of us, my heart is woven with true love into a web that stretches around the world and back again. My little family has put plenty of plans on hold in these thousand months, and we’ve cancelled more than this summer’s trip to India. We recognize that our losses are not, by a long stretch, the greatest losses, and there is very good reason to continue loving our world from afar right now.
For the many of us who love the world: its flavors, climates, landscapes, and colors… and most especially its beloved people, we’ve been left feeling helpless, adrift, fearful, and lonely. After we’ve cancelled our trips and contributed our dollars to help in some way, we grasp for something else to do, something more to offer the world.
Isn’t prayer our only, obvious option? Just as we have been gratefully woven into a tight knit, global community, our prayers bind and unify us. In fact, prayer is not the very last option after all has been said and done. Rather, prayer is the undergirding structure that not only weaves us together, but reminds us that we are tethered to the Maker. This world is not ours alone. It never was. In loving, caring, and praying for the world, we are bound up together with God Almighty, creator and sustainer of the universe. When our hearts are broken by the suffering of the world we are not alone. We turn to the one who cares even more that we can know.
At our house, we are making plans to go fishing this summer instead of hopping trains and auto rickshaws. We will fill our plates with a few more hamburgers in place of the dosas. And, we are joining our very hearts with beloved family and friends around the world, crying out to our God who cares and sustains.