This week I found myself at a big-box store, standing in front of a near-empty shelf that usually holds children’s pain relievers.
I was glad I didn’t need any. My family has an unfortunate tradition of stocking up on over-the-counter medicine during the week of Thanksgiving, when colds and stomach bugs customarily knock us down and make us miss out on getting together with extended families.
Last year, I bought medicine and canned soup and Gatorade right after Halloween. I figured I knew what was coming, and I wanted to be ready, ideally with my preferred flavors of Gatorade in the pantry.
Ironically, last year was the first Thanksgiving in years my entire family was completely healthy. We were able to enjoy a big dinner with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, and see what all the fuss is about. Still, I was not sorry I had some sickness supplies at home, and I’m still not.
Concerns about the spread of coronavirus have sent folks into a preparedness panic. I saw people at the store pushing shopping carts laden with toilet paper and bottles of water. My social media feeds are full of people bragging about their stockpiles of face masks and extra food.
I see just how regional the concept of “prepared” is. People in other places are posting photos to Instagram, showing off their shoebox of newly-purchased batteries and Cup ‘o Noodle, pleased to be “ready.” Meanwhile, Utahns have a far more ambitious concept of emergency preparedness, thanks to leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counseling members to store extra food and save up money for when they hit hard times.
Folks in the Jell-O belt have been prepping for years, turning wise counsel from church leaders into an obsessive hobby. The more motivated among them were not at the store this week; they already have private grocery stores in their basements. Even so, you’ll never see photos of their stashes online, because they want to be modest, and also deter any potential government raids.
Whenever I talk with my dad about my desire to get my family better prepared, he always asks, “Prepared for what?”
He’s not mocking me or any of the very real concerns of pandemics and natural disasters that could come our way. He’s trying to help me focus my efforts. Maybe you need canned goods and a fire starter, and maybe you need a full tank of gas and some cash. Not everything is useful for every kind of emergency. Perhaps the super-preppers among us are ready to handle anything short of a meteor, but they probably didn’t get that way haphazardly loading their carts with camping supplies and packets of freeze-dried food. It was a careful, systematic effort over time, done with “wisdom and order,” as Book of Mormon prophet Mosiah advises.
I talked to my kids about the news of coronavirus, and how some people have been quarantined to prevent it from spreading.
“That means they have to stay where they are, and can’t go anywhere or do anything for weeks, until doctors can be sure they are healthy,” I explained.
“That actually sounds nice,” commented my exhausted 14-year-old. He’s chronically overbooked with school and sports, so the idea of taking a forced break to putter at home doesn’t sound terrible to him.
Frankly, it does sound pleasant to wipe the calendar clear and recover from what the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell called “people fatigue.”
I decided part of my family’s preparedness efforts ought to include making deliberate efforts to improve our relationships, so that if we were ever asked to stay home and could only interact with each other, it would feel more like a relaxed vacation and less like a prison sentence with a bunch of crabby badgers.
Really, isn’t that exactly the preparation this life is supposed to be about? I don’t imagine heaven as a kind of quarantine, but if you believe families are forever, it seems wise to make those relationships as loving as you can.