Intersection of Life and Faith

Memories of Quarantine Past and the Power of Kindness

  • Dr. Julie Barrier Preach It Teach It
  • 2020 1 May
hands offering a red crocheted heart giving kindness

My fifth year of life was a nightmare. 

I was five when I was diagnosed with scarlet fever and pneumonia and imprisoned (I mean quarantined) at home for four months. My kindergarten buddies (and Jesus) helped me to survive. God knows, kids can be the best comforters!

As we pass through this current time of coronavirus quarantine, we all are presented with a sacred opportunity to think of a friend or neighbor who is homebound, lonely, or discouraged. My own experience with quarantine may inspire you or your children to do what my little friends did for me way back when. Here’s my story:

In those tear-filled moments when I was so weak I could hardly speak, my buddies knew how to comfort me.

“Julie, what’s wrong?” they’d ask.

“Where’d you go?” and “I miss you!” they pleaded.

They cried when I cried. No expectations. No questions. Just acceptance and consolation.

I learned so much from their empathy and tenderness.

TV was my sole source of companionship. My two-year-old sister Kathy was incapable in the friend department. All she knew how to do was cry and break all my toys. She grew up to be loving and amazing, however! My babysitter, Mrs. Richardson, was nice enough. But all she did was make lunch and put us in time-out when we sassed her or trashed the living room.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/CarlosDavid

Illness Can Attack Your Hope, Too

I had high hopes for kindergarten. 

Momma crossed off the sultry summer days on our refrigerator calendar anticipating my first day of school. As the grasshoppers and chiggers ceased, the brisk air signaled my freedom. Kindergarten! We obtained my required list of school supplies: pencils, crayons, a lined tablet...and a Barbie™ lunchbox with matching thermos. In my five-year-old mind, I was no longer a ‘silly baby’ like my sister; I was almost grown-up, ready to tackle the bright shiny world of Play-Doh and paste.

September blew by and I was getting my kindergarten sea legs. Little boys were full of burps and boogers and some of the girls were mean. But I adored my teacher, and I loved recess and snacks. Mrs. Vineyard was beautiful, funny, and cheery (before lunch). 

October rolled around and I knew my ABCs, counted to a thousand without blinking an eye, and I dunked my Oreos in milk while my teacher picked up blocks or snored in her seat after story time. After all, 20 five-year-old kids could squeeze the life out of any grownup.

Then Disaster Struck

Just as we started tracing Halloween pumpkins and the fall air turned chilly, I got sick.

My temperature soared and my head hurt. Mom rushed me to Dr. Pharo, my pediatrician. No, he was not Egyptian royalty, but he was very cool. The good doctor had dark, wavy hair, a toothy grin and a starched white coat that stood up by itself. Although his office was full of blocks, trains, and Highlights magazines, every kid knew the brutal truth: behind those brightly colored doors was a shot.

Dr. Pharo swaggered into the examining room as I shivered. Before I could answer, he gagged me with a tongue depressor and poked me vigorously in the tummy. “A few too many Vanilla Wafers, huh?” he smirked. He poked and prodded. “Wow, you could grow flowers in that earwax.” I was incensed.

Then Dr. Pharo pressed his icy stethoscope to my chest. When I inhaled and coughed, his dapper demeanor immediately grew sober. The thermometer read 103 degrees. As the saying goes, you could fry an egg on my forehead. When he lifted up my little cotton gown, my tummy was covered with red blotches.

Battling a Mysterious Invader

Mom assumed I had contracted a routine case of German Measles, but my measles were not German and my pox were not chicken. Dr. Pharo concluded that I had contracted a roaring case of Scarlet Fever and pneumonia.

Our house was quarantined and I was confined to bed.

Dr. Pharo gave Mom a long list of prescriptions and recommended I receive a series of gamma globulin shots over the next three months. My fate was sealed and my torture was imminent. I had a drawer full of lollipops and tootsie rolls and I would trade them all in for one less inoculation.

As fall turned into winter, my condition worsened. I was really, really, really sick.

My mom stayed home from work to swath my forehead with cold washcloths and to rock me as I sobbed. At night, she clutched me to her chest while I gasped for air, but then she dropped off to sleep. I lay awake listening to jazz on the radio, trying to make my heaving chest match the slow, undulating rhythm of the music. When I visited the doctor in the weeks to follow, he would shake his head and give me another shot in the bottom. At that point, I was too ill to care.

My friends couldn’t visit me because our house was off limits, and I dreaded the lonely nights of wheezing and coughing. My little sister stayed at Grandma’s to avoid “the plague.” Mrs. Richardson, my nanny, also kept her distance. I coughed through Christmas, I whined through January, and by February I had given up hope of returning to Mrs. Vineyard’s class.

Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock

Had God Forgotten Me?

I couldn’t even go outside and smell the fresh air. I was a prisoner in my own house. Chutes and Ladders without a playmate is just Chutes. Shoot! I presumed my kindergarten buddies didn’t even remember that I existed. 

I had been sentenced to solitary confinement by this evil disease. I begged for a puppy, but mom said that furry creatures might make me wheeze.

On a particularly frosty, gloomy winter morning, I sat in my little bedroom rocker gazing at pictures of Hansel and Gretel that I had seen 500 times. Although I couldn’t read, I knew the story by heart and determined I’d plan a bold escape from my bedroom dungeon and leave a graham cracker-crumb trail on the sidewalk in case I needed to find my way home.

At least running away would let me breathe the outside air for just a little while.

Love Comes Knocking

Just before I made my break, I heard a knock at the front door. It didn’t sound like a grown-up knock, but a little kid’s rap-tap-tap. My heart pounded with excitement! Who was at the door? Was my little sis coming home? Did Donnie Scott from next door learn that I was soon to be germ-free? I didn’t care.

I just wanted to see a friendly face from the outside world.

I peered out of the frosty window and couldn’t believe my eyes. I ran to the door to greet Tommy, the toughest kid in my class. He smiled and presented me with a box: an enormous, beautiful, cardboard box covered with construction paper hearts and doilies. He handed me the present, blushed, waved and ran toward the pick-up truck sputtering in the driveway.

What treasure would I find? I lifted the lid and gasped at its was a veritable treasure trove of handmade cards, candy, and an unopened box of Hershey’s kisses. The large letter on the top was from Mrs. Vineyard. It read:

Dear Julie, We are so sorry you have been sick. Our bunny class is not the same without you. Please come back to us soon!

My heart leapt with joy. I had been missed! Card after card had messages like “Be well” or “Come back” scrawled in red crayon. The girl’s cards were painstakingly neat. The boy’s notes were rattier, but they still managed to say something kind like “Stop sniffing, start living” or “Get well, Stupid.”

Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock

Valuing Those Who Are Ill in Quarantine

I never felt so valued. It didn’t matter that my teacher had probably threatened them within an inch of their lives if they didn’t complete the assignment. I could care less if the mean boys teased me when I returned.

God, in His own way, had taken time to show His love for me through a few scrawny, hyperactive five-year-olds.

Is there someone in your life who is suffering today in illness? You can show the love of Jesus to them today!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.2 Corinthians 1:3-5

11 Small Acts of Kindness that Can Make a Big Difference in Quarantine

Here are a few activities you can do with your children or grandchildren, to share kindness and compassion during this coronavirus season:

1. Make a homemade card with your child or grandchild for an elderly neighbor. Write a prayer for them as well.

2. “Carol” your neighbors by singing Jesus songs on their driveways.

3. Fill a box with practical items like soap and paper goods (if you have them) and add some homemade cookies. Be sure hands are washed and the items are disinfected. Add a love note that assures the receiver they’ve been disinfected.

4. Contact a sick family member or neighbor via FaceTime, Skype, or other online ways to connect.

5. Help your kids or grandkids to take photos and text them to encourage someone.

6. Make a prayer list with your kids to use when you say bedtime prayers together.

7. Help your child or grandchildren write thank-you cards to special people in their lives.

8. Take time to talk to family (especially grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) frequently. Don’t just text. Call them. They need to hear your voice.

9. Collect canned goods and take them to a food bank.

10. Tell your child to say “thank you” to doctors, nurses, firefighters, and police officers who serve us during this difficult an acceptable distance, of course!

11. Read stories Jesus taught about helping others, like the Good Samaritan.

Master, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.Matthew 25:40 MSG

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/coffeekai

Dr. Julie Barrier, along with her pastor-husband, Dr. Roger Barrier, have taught conferences on marriage and ministry in 35 countries. The Barriers are founders and directors of Preach It, Teach It providing free resources in 10 languages to 5 million visitors in 229 countries and territories. The Barriers pastored 35 years at Casas Church in Arizona, Julie has served as a worship minister, concert artist and adjunct professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. She has authored or composed of over 500 published works.