Lone Time

Take time to pursue some grace of the Christmas season

By Mike Jopek

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It’s the holiday season. We traditionally spend time with family and friends to celebrate. Yet it’s a lonely Christmastime.

Many locals are stressed, having a very difficult time in solitude. The pandemic has killed hundreds of Montanans and sent thousands of people to the hospital since March. The virus is making life unbearable to many workers. The sickness made earning a living difficult and put perspective on being alive. The economic stress is real for many locals.

A hopeful vaccine is reportedly en route. The process of inoculating locals will become a herculean effort for Montana. It will be months before most of us get the shot in the arm to inoculate our community from the killer communicable disease that’s significantly more contagious and deadly than a normal flu.

I’m sick of it. An inoculation can’t come fast enough. Some normalcy is urgently needed to protect our community. Yet some people still care little about whether they infect others.

I watched in disbelief as the legislative rules committee deliberated how best to proceed in the upcoming Session. The elected lawmakers were unmasked in Helena as debate proceeded on the floor of the House. I guess the lawmakers believe they’re immune and non-contagious; they’re wrong, behaving foolishly.

A civil servant, the legislative code commissioner, wore a KN95 particulate-filtering mask during the proceedings. It looked similar to the puffin-beaked masks we wore on the farm while working outdoors during the raging wildfire-smoke season that choked the valley last summer.

As the civil servant explained the wording of the lawmaker’s proposed rule changes for the 2021 Session, his voice projected through a mask that helped protect his lungs and family from potential microscopic invaders.

Later that morning, I reviewed the Whitefish City Council virtual hearing to appraise how our town might move forward assuring that future housing becomes affordable to workers of the community. The council unanimously amended the Legacy Housing Program to help more local workers.

I’m proud of my hometown people. We’re resilient and consistently find a path forward, which serves small local businesses and working people, while protecting the elderly. The big multinational corporations that operate in state seem to have plenty of resources, lobbyists and lawyers to survive, some even thrive during a pandemic.

I spent time in the woods, clearing downed trees and collecting firewood. Outside the red squirrels run up and down the pine trees while birds serenade their lullaby songs to a listening world. It soothes a need, the place that feels emptier and lonelier from months of not gathering and laughing with friends whom I’ve grown to fondly trust as family.

Tales of days past emerge from my memory of the neighbor lady recalling how they lived through the Spanish Flu, world wars, and lost relatives to the stories mom tells of sheltering for months evading the invading enemy bombers. I reassure myself that we too will live to see better days, a bright future.

We all seek the glory of seeing friends smile again, a glimmer of hope returning to shine in bright eyes. Take time to pursue some grace of the Christmas season. Find the joy necessary, offer a helping hand, give some dollars around town. I beg for your courage to remain vigilant, don’t infect others with the dreadful COVID-19 as we await a vaccine.

It’s a sad time, a holy yet lonely time when friends question intentions, and people snarl unexpectedly. A tear forms in the corner of the eye as I cry for the loved ones lost this year and pray for a new way forward so our hometowns can prosper and workers can safely earn a living, paying the rent, mortgage and never-ending bills. May peace return.

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