Ride 17 – When Your Friend Gets Sick

Opening Prayer: 

A prayer for a child to use when a friend is sick 

Dear God, 

My friend _____is sick.
I cannot visit them. I cannot hug them. And I’m sad because I miss them. 

I wonder how they feel. Are they lonely, scared, or hurting? 
Please be close to them. Please be with the people who are taking care of them.
Please help my friend get better. 

Please let them know I love them, and that you love them, too.
Amen.

(Contributed by the Reverend Allison Sandlin Lyles, Priest-In-Charge, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Hurst, Texas)

Readings: 

Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 10:25-37

Bible Verses for the Day:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

Devotional: 

In-person school has started back in our hometown. Nervously, I sent my kids back to the schools they loved. I had to make some hard decisions. New opportunities were presented for each of them, but I chose to keep them where they were, in person, with friends they loved, and teachers they trusted. 

Trust was important to us in making this decision. No one in this house wanted to endure another 39 day quarantine and isolation. And I did not want to be sick again. Because, ya’ll, this virus CAN make you VERY sick. It made me sick and I’m an otherwise healthy, active woman. 

Trust is important during this pandemic. We are all going to make different decisions about ourselves and our families. What’s right for me might not be right for you. I have learned to surround myself with people who I trust who will make educated decisions (even some that I don’t personally agree with, but that’s okay because, again, what’s right for me might not be right for you) and with people who I trust to make hard phone calls when the time comes. 

Trust is the hero that saves us from our fear, especially trust in God. We can’t let fear control us, and it is important to me to model that for my kids during this time. So off they went, back to the schools they love. Each with some “wisdom” they learned (or earned) during our 39 days in isolation and quarantine. 

Virus wisdom acquired by Astin: “The Birus is the boss of all the germs. It is like the king. So you have to wear your mask-es. When The Birus is over, I’m going to DisneyWorld and you can’t stop me.” Thank you Astin. (Side note: We had to cancel a May Disney trip that we had already told the kids about. We had to explain why, so in my four-year old’s mind, the only thing standing between her and Cinderella’s castle is The Birus, and she’s pretty much done with it all. Me too, girlfriend. Me too.)

Virus wisdom acquired by Flynn: About a week into school, Flynn’s teacher contacted us. He was taking his mask off in class and just boldly walking around without it. This was confusing to everyone because 1. He’s not normally that bold. 2. We are the mask family. I’ve lost count at the number of masks I’ve either donated or sold, but it’s well over 2,000 at this point. He’s been wearing a mask since March. MARCH, ya’ll. 3. He had the virus. He knows better. What was he thinking? He had two family members hospitalized and at this point, EIGHT people in his family affected with a positive diagnosis. Seriously what was he thinking?

No one could figure it out, so we sat him down and talked to him about it. Apparently during a phone call with our infectious disease doctor’s office, someone told him he had superpowers to defeat the Coronavirus since his antibody test came back positive. At the time we thought this was a great way to explain immune response. 

He also overheard several conversations in which that same doctor said we didn’t have to wear a mask. But he must have walked away before he heard the doctor say…IF you can social distance or IF you are outside and spaced far enough apart to be safe. This was also before our Governor issued a mandatory mask order, which we neglected to tell him about, because we (wrongly) assumed he would just wear his mask. 

After talking with him, we learned that he truly believed he had superpowers and he was just showing off. We had a chat about everything and my husband really won the day with his direction. He told Flynn, “You know that all superheroes wear masks, right? It’s to protect their identity.” 

And being the amazing educator she is, Flynn’s teacher looked back at some pictures they drew the first week of school to really bring this discovery full cirle. In one block, the assignment asked the kids to draw their superpower. Flynn had drawn, what I think was, a string of viruses he had crossed out and wrote “No Coronavirus” below it. 

And that’s what the kids learned. What mama learned (or re-learned) was that kids are ALWAYS listening. And they will model what they see and hear. That’s important to remember when their friends get sick. 

We’ve already received an email that there was a positive case in our school and that several students were quarantined. The privacy of all involved was protected by our school administrators and we never knew who it was, only that it did not affect Flynn’s class. But it was a gut-check that it can happen and it’s coming. 

What do you say when your child tells you his friend is sick? What do you say when your child’s friend’s mama calls you to tell you “the news”? How do you respond when a parent publicly rants about another child or family? 

With compassion.

Remember, it is nobody’s fault that they’ve contracted this awful virus. Do you blame people for sinus infections or colds or the flu? No. So let’s not blame or publicly shame anyone for contracting COVID. Do people make mistakes and expose others? Yes, they absolutely do. We did. And if it happens to you, you probably will too. 

Please give grace and remember that this can happen to anyone. Model that for your kids. Your kids are listening. Choose your words carefully. 

I’ve said it before during the bike rides and I’ll write it again here, I truly believe the worst first question you can ask someone who is diagnosed or forced to quarantine is, “Where did you get it?” or “Who did you get it from?” Those questions make me cringe, because, while that’s important information for contact tracing, it can also make the person affected feel ashamed. Let’s ask other questions first, and teach our kids to do the same. Some of my favorites:

“How are you feeling?”

“What can we do to help you?”

“Do you need anything?”

I saw a post from a parent who was joking about kids playing cooties tag but called it Coronavirus. We encountered a child who made my child feel sad about having had the virus. And I watched the parent of a very young child scold another very young child for their child being quarantined. 

I don’t fault anyone for their behavior during this time. If you only knew how many times I screamed into a pillow out of frustration when we were in isolation, or took a shower just to have a private space in which to breakdown, cry, and wail. I’ve been very honest with you that I’ve let my mind wander down some dark paths riddled with shame, blame, guilt, sadness, anger, and fear. It’s okay to feel all those things, and I want to be honest with my family about feeling those feelings, but when I’m done working through those, I hope that I’m modeling compassion. 

When someone calls to tell me they’ve been exposed and may have exposed us (and it’s happened quite frequently here lately), I have committed to myself to take one big inhale and then exhale out everything but compassion before I speak. I normally think, act, and speak at a very fast pace, sometimes inappropriately (did I mention I’m an awkward engineer who only presents to be halfway normal). Sometimes my fast pace serves me well as a strength, but many times it can be a weakness. Slowing down to deliberately practice acting at a slower pace is strange and uncomfortable for me. But I’ve committed to it. Inhale the negativity. Exhale everything but compassion, so that my mind and my heart respond with unconditional love. 

On the day of our last ride, I stepped outside and inhaled my freedom. Isolation forced me to slow down. Being sick forced me to slow down. Long before that moment I committed to turning our awful, negative, terrible situation into something good that would change my family for the better. Being more deliberate about my choice to be compassionate first solidifies that change and ensures that love wins, not just for us, but for everyone. 

Tips from a weary mama: 

It’s hard not to react when you get “that” phone call. It’s hard not to discuss other people’s situations when you hear about a sick child or friend. It’s hard not to post a comment to a friend’s social media post when they put a controversial issue surrounding the pandemic on blast. I promise you that inhaling all the negative and letting it go with one powerful exhale is a powerful way to ensure you are responding with love and compassion. 

Journal: 

It’s easier to respond to “that” phone call or virus-related situations when you’re prepared. Write down some hypothetical situations, such as “My child’s principal called o inform me that the whole class is quarantined,” or “Our golf coach called to tell us that he tested positive and has exposed the team.” Now write out your responses to those situations. When you’re prepared, you’re more likely to respond rather than react. 

Closing Prayer: 

A Prayer for a Parent to Read with their Sick Child

God, 
Right now things feel scary. We are worried, and my child does not feel well. But even now in these times when we are afraid, we know we are not afraid alone.Love wraps around us like a patchwork quilt. It comes from you, from our friends, and from our family. It comes from all the helpers in the hospitals and doctors’ offices. This love is like hope. It’s always there even if we can’t see it. Please fill our hearts with peace and courage instead of worry and fear. Help us remember that even when life is hard and painful, it will get better. We know that even you, God, know what it’s like to watch your child hurt. We know you are with us, wrapped around us in this quilt of love.   
Amen.

(Contributed by the Reverend Allison Sandlin Lyles, Priest-In-Charge, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Hurst, Texas)

Footnotes:

I chose these prayers by my dear friend, the Reverend Alison Sandlin Lyles because I wanted you to have a tool to help your children deal with COVID, either themselves or when showing compassion for a friend that has been diagnosed. This disease is hard for children to understand and not only is Allison a fantastic priest, but she’s also a wonderful mother. She’s definitely someone that I look to when I want to see parents modeling love to their children and to others.

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