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Ben Sprague is a former member of the Bangor City Council.
That patience is a virtue has been understood from one generation to the next, although the concept may seem quaint today in the 21st century when you can order almost anything you want to be delivered to you with a few taps of your finger on a mobile device. We live in an era of impatience. It is the sound of honking as soon as the light turns green, but it is also the expectation that we will get instant results and immediate answers to any question before us. What previous generations might have simply endured, we type into Google or WebMD. There is no need to leaf through an encyclopedia anymore when you can just ask Alexa.
Making it through the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult in an impatient world. Cases are spiking around the country including right here in Maine. Uncontrolled community spread is now evident in most Maine counties and has long been a reality throughout much of the rest of the country. As we enter the dark winter months, it is likely that case numbers will continue to sharply rise, mirroring trends in other parts of the world including Europe.
But there is also hope. In recent days both Pfizer and Moderna have indicated their respective vaccines have shown success rates of nearly 95 percent. This is extraordinary given that research on a possible vaccine only began in earnest less than a year ago, far outpacing previous scientific efforts to create new vaccines.
It is now a time for patience. America is perhaps entering the darkest hour of this pandemic as cases continue to rise. There has been a crushing toll of human sadness as loved ones have died. The ongoing impacts of isolation, economic hardship and depression continue to grow more pressing with each passing week. There is despondence and frustration over continued COVID-19 restrictions, which have grown wearisome.
But the apparent viability of the pending vaccines suggests that we may be nearing the end of this pandemic, at least as we have come to know it. COVID-19 cases will probably linger on with outbreaks for months, if not years, to come, but the end of the widespread, uncontrolled nature of this pandemic is within sight. The science is working. And the most helpful thing any of us can do now is to be patient.
What does patience entail at this point? Higher risk groups of people like health care workers and the more vulnerable among us will get the vaccines first. For the rest of us, that means waiting. With cases skyrocketing and the risks of schools and businesses being shut down once again, patience means staying safe, careful and socially distant during this time. This could help determine how many more of our neighbors and family members are impacted by COVID-19 before it is over while easing the burden on our doctors, nurses and other hospital workers. Patience could even help keep our schools and businesses open.
Patience also means being compassionate toward one another. Everyone is fighting their own battles. People are tired. Jobs have been lost. Families are under great stress due to isolation and because most of the usual activities that provide distraction and respite are not available. Many parents are trying to juggle their own responsibilities while taking care of children who are unexpectedly at home all day. Others have not seen or hugged their older family members for months. The lost opportunities for social interaction, friendship and newly created family memories continue to stack up with every missed birthday party, soccer game, school concert and each passing holiday.
It is also important to be patient with ourselves. It is fair to acknowledge that everything going in the world does not have to feel OK and the weight of the world right now is, indeed, heavy. Extending this grace to ourselves may make things feel just a bit lighter especially with an understanding that hope is on the way.
Christians around the world are about to begin the season of Advent. This is a season of hope and joy, but it is also a season of waiting. It is a season of patience. In this particular Advent season, the grace of patience is as important as can be. Patience may be our most effective tool to combat COVID-19 as we continue to collectively wait in hope and expectation for the end of this pandemic.