On Friday, June 18, the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department announced the end of all remaining Directed Health Measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is still reason to be cautious, as we each are vaccinated, we will start to engage the world in ways that we have not over the last year. This process of reentry is complex and multi-layered. As a simple example: children under twelve are not yet able to be vaccinated, so my family has to take that into consideration when we decide what events to attend with our three-year-old. On top of navigating ongoing risk for children and other vulnerable groups, we are also learning how to be human together again.
This is not the first emotionally intense reentry process I have gone through. Ten years ago I came home from the Peace Corps, not quite sure how to interact with people. The last few months had been hard, and I was relatively isolated at my site. Bobete is a rural village, and I could easily go weeks or months at a time without being around more than the few hundred people that lived in the valley. Coming back to the states was an intense experience for an introvert.
The first apartment where I lived in Baltimore was three blocks north of Camden Yards. That whole first summer, I would come home from work, see the light from the stadium, and sit in the cheap seats, filling out a scorecard. It was a way to be around people, to do some informal exposure therapy, without any expectation of interaction. Keeping score is a meditative act- keeping score keeps your attention on the game, on each pitch as it happens. I wasn't really an Orioles fan before then, but I ended up seeing over thirty games in the 2010 season, as I put myself back together and figured out how I was going to be in the world.
So it is probably not a surprise that my first big event post-vaccination a decade after that summer was a Lincoln Saltdogs game, alone, with a scorecard to fill out. Midway through the sixth inning a guy walked up behind me to ask "Hey are you like, one of the team stats guys?"
"No, I just do this for fun."
Fun, yes, but also a way to engage with the world on terms that I chose and have some control over. As we move into a community without Directed Health Measures, and reenter communities we have been away from for a year or more, this is my hope for you: that you will find ways to manage that reentry on your own terms, paying attention to how you feel at each stage, and finding ways to embrace both caution and joy.
Rev. Oscar Sinclair serves as the Settled Minister for The Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska.