I have been thinking about the pandemic and how it has affected not just our family, or even our country, but the entire world. I am very blessed to have a friend named Ingrid. She lives in China. In fact, she lives in the epicenter of the coronavirus, Wuhan. I met Ingrid through my husband Phil’s work. She works for a supplier for his company. During the pandemic, Ingrid and I started exchanging emails. We have never met in person and we come from two very different cultures, but we share a common humanity. I want to tell you about the friendship we found. I decided to let excerpts from our emails tell our story.
Our first emails began on February 29, 2020. Ingrid and her husband and her son, Sam, were under lockdown in Wuhan and the first death attributed to the coronavirus in the United States was announced in Washington State, about 40 miles from where our son Josh had started his internship in January with World Vision. In my first email I greeted Ingrid and her family, and did my best to encourage her:
I hope you and your beautiful family are doing well. It must be very hard to be restricted to your home all of these weeks. I am so sorry you are all having to experience this hardship. I just wanted to write to tell you that you and your family and everyone affected by the corona virus are all in our prayers. We are praying for safety for you, your family, all of the communities affected, and the health care workers. We are also praying for healing for those who have contracted the virus.
Ingrid responded on March 4th with a lovely email in return, but one that also spoke of the hardship they were experiencing:
Yes, we have been restricted at home for quite some time, today is the 42nd day. Life was difficult but is getting better and better now.
We used to be panic, not sure if we would have enough food; we used to be scared, so many people got affected but no bed for them in hospital; we used to be so sad, so many cries for help on internet, yet so many people died every day; we used to be inspired, so many doctors, nurses, came bravely to our city to help. Since it is not so difficult for us to buy food (although we are still not allowed to go out of the community, we can order online and collect at the door gate), we are more and more get used to this life now.
What makes me happy is that none of my family members, relatives, friends, in Wuhan have got affected. I hope we can keep this record. 🙂
All your family members are good looking. I love your smile. I can tell you are a nice, kind-hearted lady from your face. 🙂 Your son is so handsome, I love his beard, so cool~~~I can tell he is a sunshine boy with good temper. Phil is always so lovely! I found out he loves plaid shirt deeply. Am I right?
Yes! Ingrid you are right! LOL
Ingrid also shared about cutting her husband and son’s hair, since it was getting so long during their lock down. She ended her email with:
Don’t worry dear Nancy, we will get through this hard time soon.
I hope you and your lovely family members always happy and healthy.
My husband and my son Sam, ask me to say thanks to you. Your letter also warms and encourages them. They appreciate it. We are now looking forward to spring. When spring comes, maybe we can step outside…
On March 8th I wrote in return:
Our hearts are breaking for all of those affected around the world. We must all stand together and love and support one another! I saw a wonderful video on youtube – I wish you could see it. It shows people from countries around the world all giving the same message – Stay Strong, Wuhan! Stay Strong, China! China Strong! Wuhan Strong! We are all in this together! If we all work together we can overcome these challenges! Be courageous – We stand by you! We are with you!
Dear Ingrid, I hope you and your family find it encouraging to know that 🙂
Sprinkled throughout these emails are pictures we shared of what we have each been cooking during lockdown.
Ingrid’s next email on March 10th, she wrote:
I still would like to remind you to wear mask when go to public places like supermarket if possible, wash your hands whenever you take food. Do not touch your mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands. I can understand Josh will think we such mothers are “making a storm in a teacup,” but please also try to remind him. We also hope your family stay healthy.
Part of my response on March 14th:
You write excellent English! I am also an ESL teacher and have taught English to my students from around the world, including China. I am very impressed with your command of the English language!
Regarding your question about the outbreak, yes, I am referring to the corona virus. The first case in the United States was in Washington state, in the same county where our son is working for World Vision. We wanted him to fly home to be with us, but we decided it was too dangerous, since there have been over 450 cases. We are afraid he has a greater chance of being exposed if he goes to an airport or gets in an airplane. Washington has had the most infections. Very sadly, they began in a nursing home and several of the residents have died. The corona virus has also spread to California and New York with large numbers of cases. As you know, we live in Texas. It has also arrived here. Because Phil has asthma and is 65 years old, we are staying home. He will not be going into work next week and UPG will reevaluate how to proceed at the end of next week. Fortunately, we have lots to do at our house so hopefully we will keep busy and safe.
Thank you so much for your advice and concern, dear Ingrid. I love the idiom you shared, “making a storm in a teacup.” An English equivalent would be “making a mountain out of a molehill.” And yes, our sons often think that way because of their youth, but rest assured Joshua understands the gravity of the situation and is anxious to protect not only himself, but also our more vulnerable population. He is staying in his host family’s house and working from there. The schools have all been shut down. It is a scary time for all of us but we have faith in God that He will provide for us and for the world, which keeps us from worrying too much. We are praying for you and your family and for everyone affected by the pandemic.
And part of Ingrid’s next response on March 17th:
You are right to not let Josh come back at this time. The most dangerous thing is to go to public places with many people. Airport is surely a very dangerous place. Even in Wuhan, since we stayed at home, my family and all of my 36 relatives in this city are ok. Most of the people who got infected are those who have been to hospital or supermarket. You and Phil please also stay at home. I have been stayed at home for 54 days. Based on my experience, I have to say we human beings are good at getting used to suit any environment. We all feel quite ok at home now. The best things is that we can have enough sleep, which is good for our health but we never have chance to fulfill if not because of the virus. 🙂
In Ingrid’s next email on March 26th:
Haven’t heard from you for so many days, how are you doing?
After 64 days’ stay at home, finally I stepped out of my house yesterday. I was so excited for that. I have been to a grocery store near my house. Haven’t shopped for more than 2 months, even the snacks there made me more excited. I bought so much snacks, some of which I did not like to take in the past. We need a good chance to vent. 🙂
The good news is although our city is still locked down, our plant is re-opened. Not all the workers are able to be back at present but it is still a good sign that our life will slowly back to normal. But experts said the virus may return after our city unblocks, so we must be very very careful when back to work.
Based on our experience, we all think only if we do not go to public places, wear mask, wash our hands carefully, do not touch our eyes, nose and mouth with our hands, the virus can be not so terrible.
I wish you and your family members take good care of yourselves and get through this hard time soon~~~
And on March 27th from me:
Thank you so much for writing! You have been on my heart to respond to your last email every day, but things have gotten pretty crazy around here. I am sorry if I worried you. We are well and safe,
I am sooooo happy you got to go outside yesterday – that is wonderful news!!! I understand about the shopping – I was so excited two days ago when I managed to buy some toilet paper on Amazon 🙂
I am so happy to hear that life is slowly starting to get back to normal. Our challenges began over a week ago which is why I have not returned your other email yet.
Ingrid’s response, also on March 27th:
I am happy to see your email, which tells me you are all ok. In fact I was a little worried about you since you seldom don’t reply for so long time. Now I am released.
I guess the crazy you mentioned should be people are trying to store toilet paper and food? When the virus comes, all the people are doing these, so you do not need to worry too much, just also store enough at home and try to lessen your chances to go out, I believe you will be safe.
I responded on March 29th:
Thank you for your advice regarding the protocol for staying safe and preventing infection. I told Josh and he says he understands what to do. He still goes to the grocery store but only once every two weeks and very early before it gets busy. I worry sometimes, but I also trust God to take care of my son.
It is hard to keep Phil home. He is used to being very active, so I have to be creative in finding things to keep him busy. You are right, we human beings can adapt, but I think it’s harder for some people than others to be stuck home. I am glad he likes to cook!
I enjoy our chats – it is very relaxing and peaceful to visit with a sweet friend! Please tell your husband and Sam hello for us – you and your family are in our prayers for safety, peace, and provision.
I sent this one on April 3rd:
I hope you and your family are all safe and doing well. I am a little bit worried because you have not responded yet – I am hoping to hear from you soon, so I can know you are okay.
Please answer as soon as you are able – I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Please give my greetings to your husband and Sam. Phil says hello also.
Take care dear friend,
And received this from Ingrid in reply on April 3rd:
I am so sorry for my late reply. And I am sorry to make you worried.
I resumed to work in office this Monday. So many emails and so much work, my brains are so so so full .
After my first working day, when I went home, I saw Sam was playing basketball downstairs with mask. I was a little sad at that time, because after 71 days’ staying at home, this is the first time he stepped out of the house, but still with mask on; I was also a little touched seeing him so energetic under the beautiful flower tree. No matter how hard life is, it can still be beautiful and full of hope, isn’t it?
On April 4th I responded:
I am so glad to receive your email! Now I also am released from worry 🙂 When I didn’t get the auto-reply I thought you might have returned to work – you must be so busy catching up!
I can tell you are a tender loving mother also, and that you worry about your son like all good mothers do. The picture of Sam brought tears to my eyes. Yes, my dear Ingrid, no matter how hard life is, it can still be beautiful and full of hope! I also feel very blessed that even in terrible times we can find some good. I have found a lovely new friend in an amazing and sweet lady named Ingrid, and I am thankful for that 🙂
We found in our emails that we not only have a common humanity, but also a common hope. We both see that hope in our children and in the beauty of life, even when it is hard. We also found hope in our friendship.
From Ingrid on April 7th:
About our friendship, it is really a great gift to me. It lighted my dark days.
From me on April 9th:
I treasure your friendship, dear Ingrid. It reminds me that we are all the same in our hearts no matter where we live or what country we are from. Thank you so much for your love and encouragement – they are precious to me.
If two women who have never met can form a caring friendship and encourage and inspire each other from opposite sides of the world, just imagine what is possible for all of us! Ingrid and I invite you to join us in finding a common hope in the beauty of life even in these difficult times and to recognize our common humanity with the people of all nations – we will all get through this together!