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Covid, Chicken, and Cataracts

Ok so this isn’t so much about Covid-19, but my story begins because of Covid and the way the virus has changed our lives. Over the past year, 9 times out of 10 I’ve chosen to get my groceries by way of the curbside pickup or delivery options offered by our local store. The 1 out of 10 times that I’ve gone into the actual building has been when I’ve needed to pick up a prescription. And that’s where the chicken comes in.

In early March 2021, I put on my mask, went to the store to get a prescription and decided to get a few things on my grocery list while I was there. One of the things I wanted was some deli meat. Unfortunately that particular aisle was more crowded than I would have liked in order to keep the 6 ft. social distancing rule. Rather than stand in line at the counter, I decided to pick up a package of pre-sliced lunchmeat, so I headed over to that section of the aisle. And that’s where I encountered the first problem. A woman was blocking the entire area with her cart as she hemmed and hawed over what she wanted. I parked my cart across the aisle and waited patiently for her to make her choice and move on. Well, I say that I waited “patiently,” but in reality I was anxious for her to move so I could get what I wanted and get out of the store as quickly as possible.

After a few minutes, seriously, minutes. . . (who takes that long to choose deli meat?) she moved forward a step or two as she continued to ponder her choices. Quickly I decided to leave my cart on the side, walked across the aisle, and holding my breath, stepped in behind her to grab what I wanted. The first thing I saw was fat free ham. Score! Then I saw chicken breast. Great! I love chicken breast deli meat and rarely get it. I did my “grab and go” and got out of there, leaving the indescribably slow, middle-aged woman behind. I picked up a few more things, checked out, and went home.

Looking forward to a nice chicken sandwich for lunch, I pulled out the chicken breast to discover to my dismay that I did not get the chicken breast I thought I had chosen at all. In my haste to grab and go, I had bought spicy buffalo chicken breast instead of plain. Oh no! That was not what I wanted. Not at all. I was disappointed. I was also a little bit angry. I realized that I still held a little bit of residual anger at the woman who so thoughtlessly blocked the counter for so long. But I also found myself being angry at the situation we are in due to Covid. What should have been a simple trip to the grocery store, like many other things these days, turned into an anxiety causing, mask wearing, people avoiding, frustrating, rushed adventure of the type that causes the Covid exhaustion everyone is talking about. We’re just tired of it. Covid has made us realize how much we used to take for granted. We want to get back to the days when doing simple things like going to the grocery store did not carry a nagging fear in the back of our heads that we might happen to pick up a deadly virus along with our deli meat. And that brings me to the cataract portion of my sermon-like title above.

As I looked at my package of deli meat, I realized that more than being angry at Covid, or irritated with the thoughtless woman, I was mad at myself for not noticing the “spicy buffalo” in small print underneath the words “CHICKEN BREAST.” Maybe I didn’t notice because I was rushed in picking it up, but maybe—just maybe, I didn’t notice because the cataract in my eye is worse. Actually, maybe anger at myself is not the best word choice. Concerned. Worried. Scared. Upset. Frustrated. Those are words that describe how I’ve felt since my optometrist told me last year that I have a fast growing cataract that will need surgery this year. What’s worse is that the cataract is in my “good eye”—the eye that had Lasik surgery to correct my near vision more than a decade ago. Since that surgery I have enjoyed perfect vision. Since I only had one eye corrected for distance, I have had what I call "built-in bifocals." It has been great! One eye sees close up and one eye sees in the distance. But now, because of the cataract, everything in the distance is blurry with both eyes. And thanks to the wonders of aging (I’m 61) I cannot see close up as well as I used to with my uncorrected nearsighted eye, which incidentally also has a cataract beginning, although a slow growing one. So after years of relying on my built-in bifocals to see clearly, I now have to wear glasses with actual bifocals in order to function until I am able to have the cataract surgery.

To be honest, the thought of surgery on my eye scares me. I would venture to say that nobody much likes that idea. I had the same fear of surgery before I had Lasik, but afterwards I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to see clearly.

Vision is a precious gift. I don’t want to have the surgery, but I also don’t want to live with fuzzy vision that will eventually cause me to be blind, so I know it’s what I need to do. And I will.

This combination of Covid, chicken and cataracts, has caused me to reflect on a great number of things as I wonder what other things there are in life that we might know we have to do, even though we don’t want to, but we do them anyway because we know things will be better in the end?

There are so many benefits to cataract surgery after the hard part is over, such as having clear vision and the end of frustration with not being able to read. There will be no more annoyance with the glare of fluorescent lights and headaches. It may even be the end of buying the wrong deli meat.

I’m equally sure there will be many benefits once the hard days of living with the specter of Covid is over. I’m especially hoping that we will have a new appreciation for the things we took for granted before the pandemic began. Visiting with our family tops the list for many of us. It will be great to go to restaurants and gather with friends in public again. Seeing co-workers in person and having a growing economy will be welcome. We’re also looking forward to attending concerts, shows, sporting events, and church. We won’t give a second thought to standing next to someone in line at the grocery store. And, of course, we’ll be happy to see shelves stocked with toilet paper!

Two weeks after my trip to the grocery store, I saw my doctor again and made an appointment to have the surgery. The doctor explained that it’s considered elective. It’s a choice. A choice! I can choose to have the surgery OR I can choose to continue to lose vision and live under the cloud of blurry eyesight caused by my cataract. And again I wonder, what other hard or scary choices are there that we must make in life?

As I await surgery with both anticipation and trepidation, I realize that my reflection on having clear vision is also a metaphor for seeing our way clearly to living as people of faith. How do we, as God’s people, see clearly and then live in a way that shows our concern for issues of social justice, fairness, and love for all of humanity and creation? (Note: the irony is not lost on me that that this also means showing a godly love even for an interminably slow woman trying my patience at the deli.)

What blinds us from seeing clearly? What blinds us to having the vision to see situations, issues, people... the way God sees them? What scares us from taking a step toward having our vision made clear? And once our vision is clear, what stops us from taking the next step? What IS the next step? (See Matt. 9: 27-30, Mark 8: 22-25 and John 9 for some Biblical stories when Jesus restored sight to the blind.)

With many of our hard life choices, there is an element of trust involved. With cataract surgery it involves trusting the doctor. Trusting the anesthesia will work. Trusting the surgery will be a success. Trusting there won’t be too much pain or aftereffects from the operation. Trusting my vision will be restored. Trusting it will be worth it in the end.

With Covid, we have to trust that people will be considerate and wear their masks so as not to infect others. We have to trust that those caring for our health are giving us good and trustworthy information. We have to trust that the vaccines will work and that people will get them so the virus can be brought under control. We have to trust that one day life will not only go back to “normal” but that it will be better than it was before as we gain a new appreciation for the things that we temporarily lost.

There is also trust involved when it comes to making the hard choices in life related to putting our faith into action. We have to trust God, trust ourselves and sometimes we also need to trust others.

Sometimes we need to make choices that may seem hard but that we know are right, even though we may be afraid to speak up, speak out, and take action. When we put our faith into action, we might just bring a little hope into the world. Perhaps if we join other people in working towards bringing God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace to the world, we might just make the world a better place. . . for all of God’s people.

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Loving your thoughts. Best of luck with your surgery.

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