“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” ― Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Lenin is not a person I would normally look to for an example, but this quote fits.
Things are moving fast. The San Francisco Bay Area is on a shelter-in-place regime until further notice. In Kansas, they’ve closed schools until the fall. More Italians have already died from COVID-19 than the number who died in the 9/11 terror attacks. The markets are reeling. Nearly one in five American households have lost work due to the outbreak. We’re looking at a global recession.
Yesterday at the Berkeley Food Pantry, I was struck by how well they are handling this crisis, despite having to change their entire process for distributing food. Before, they could allow individuals to pick out their own items, food is now delivered in pre-assembled packages. (This avoids spreading the virus.) Despite all this change, the pantry is operating with great efficiency and care for our neighbors.
Folks visiting the Berkeley Food Pantry are just like any of us going to the grocery store right now. We’re anxious. We’re not sure what’s happening. There’s fear that maybe the food will run out. That was the vibe yesterday, but I was impressed to see the way Aram Antaramian, the Pantry’s manager, handled the situation. He was both reassuring and firm. COVID-19 has changed the rules, and we’re all adapting. Nevertheless, we are committed to feeding everyone.
I had worried about that. With all the panic-buying happening at regular grocery stores, would there be nothing left over for the Pantry? At least for now, that fear is not materializing. If anything, there was more food than we could distribute. It reminded me of the loaves and fishes that Jesus blessed and shared. Despite the fragility of our economy and supply chains, there is still great abundance available to us if we will release fear and continue to share.
Things are moving fast. As I spent time working alongside other volunteers at the Pantry, I grew even more certain that now is the time to push for fundamental changes to how our society operates. Just as the Berkeley Food Pantry must adapt to meet the needs of hungry people in this post-COVID reality, we must demand change across entire economies and governments.
Now is the time for big, bold action. Now is the time to mount a full court press for a Green New Deal, Medicare For All, worker control of the economy, and guaranteed income for everyone.
This is something that Lenin understood. It’s something that many in the Republican Party seem to grasp. This is what all people of good will need to understand and act on right now:
In times like these, those who are ready seize power.
Now is not the time to retreat and allow ourselves to be made spectators. This is a moment of action. A moment for great imagination and bold steps. We are in a window of time where massive change is possible.
These are the weeks where decades happen. We must not cede this moment to those who would crush the poor and choke out the last gasps of democracy. In this present darkness, we must be the light.
Now is the time to enact everything we believe. On the grassroots level. At the workplace. In our families. In government. Now is the favored time. We must seize it.
The presence of Jesus can be expressed in our lives and actions. Through our service to the poor and vulnerable. We witness to a new way of living. We present a challenge to the manic domination and bottomless hunger that characterizes late capitalism.
Let us hear the call of the Spirit in this moment. Let all who are thirsty come to the water of life – to find strength to build. A new world of love, peace, solidarity.
For me, right now, I think that will involve continuing to volunteer at the Berkeley Food Pantry. Taking care of our kids. Maintaining social distance to slow the spread of the virus. Caring for Berkeley Friends Church as we experiment with a distributed, digital format.
It’s about staying awake. It’s about being prepared to act when the day of maximum effort arrives. Not being caught flat-footed by the crisis, but being like the wise bridesmaids who had oil in their lamps when the bridegroom arrived. He is arriving now. This is a unique moment in history. Let us be among those who are ready to seize it.
I’d love to hear about how you are seizing this moment. What’s feeling most alive and important to you right now? What’s the hardest? What support do you need to stay awake, alert, and hopeful even as we walk through the darkness together?