“Thank you, Lord, I have no Covid.”
By Lay Missionary Mavic Mercene
I live in an apartment building in Quezon City (Philippines). On my floor are four apartments separated in two wings. The other apartment in my wing has been empty since February 2020. My two other neighbors are very private people, and they have dogs. Let me tell you about my funny experience with the occupants of apartment four.
Before the pandemic, I had no tolerance with them because they allowed their two dogs to pee and poo at the corridor fronting their apartment. Yes, it may be their space but when the wind blows from their direction to ours, the stench from the dog's pee and poo just makes my blood boil with disgust. Sometimes, these little dogs can escape from their wing and run to ours and every time this happens, they would leave their "mark." And since I decided (because I hate the idea) that it was not my job to scoop poo, I would report the event to the building guard, and he would do the cleaning himself. There had been twice in the past when I got so irritated with the dogs that I told the owner of the dogs not to allow the dogs to wander about. This was why I thought we have bad blood between us.
When the pandemic hit and we learned that one of the symptoms of coronavirus is the loss of smell, I started changing the way I look at these dogs and their daily ritual. When I open my door now, step into the corridor, I smell the disgusting odor, instead of getting angry, I would look up to the sky and say, "Thank you, Lord, I have no Covid." I still do not like the dogs but now I acknowledge and respect them. Yes, they are some of God's wonderful creations. I have also gone out of my way to befriend my neighbors. Sometimes I would give Cris my homemade cookies, and Badet would share her plants with me. Recently, I realized that their place was so quiet. I asked the guard about them and he told me that the barangay health workers took them to an undisclosed place for quarantine because all of them, except one, tested positive of COVID. They may not know it but when they came back, I was truly happy to see them.
Looking back, I am reminded of the Pope's Encyclical Fratelli Tutti on love and brotherhood. For a couple of years, I erected a wall high enough for self -preservation, to avoid any encounter with my neighbors. I did not care so much about them because I had a world of my own. I pretended to be busy always. These invisible walls protected me, kept me safe, or so I thought. During the pandemic, the walls did not protect anyone from the virus, loneliness or anxiety. It has taught me to be open, to build good relationship with my new-found friendship with my neighbors. I have more friends to share my brownies and banana bread with, or snake plants and mayana plants.
Columban lay missionary Mavic Mercene lives and works in the Philippines.