There’s a passage in the Gospels where Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” Jesus was making a distinction between two kingdoms: the earthly world presided over by political leaders and the kingdom of Heaven presided over by God. In the former, we must abide by rules, regulations and mandates that seem overbearing and impulsive. In God’s kingdom, different rules apply such as love, honesty and humility. To the faithful, God’s always in charge and divine supremacy supersedes material directives.
As health officials issue new Coronavirus mandates, I remind myself that God is still in charge. It’s not easy. The mere act of making a living has never been this challenging. I’m a freelance art teacher, working at schools, senior homes, daycare centers and parks and recreation facilities. Because of the rampant spread of Omicron, I’m forced to comply with new government rules in order to continue working.
I’m vaccinated with a booster and have no problem wearing a mask. But I must now obtain a negative Covid test within 24 hours for every class I teach. Home tests aren’t acceptable (they’re not available anyway). This means waiting in line an hour each day at a health clinic or drug store for a test. Finding an available appointment has forced me to drive long distances to outlying areas. It also means waiting in line with others who are probably infected with Covid. The effort to stop the spread of Omicron may be causing it to spread.
Rapid tests can cost $40, even though I have health insurance. If I work six days a week, this equates to $1000 a month in Covid tests just to have the privilege of working. Like most people, I don’t have an extra $1000 per month to throw away.
I have friends who are anti-vaxxers who rail against government oppression. I understand their frustration. I feel it too. But I believe their passion is a lost cause. It’s also selfish. We need to protect the more vulnerable segments of our population. I work with senior citizens, and some have succumbed to Covid in the past year. I’ve seen healthcare workers get sick and met caregivers who risk their life helping others.
A friend’s wife works 18-hour shifts at a hospital to mitigate staff shortages. During the early days of the pandemic, she cried each day on her way home from work. She saw dozens die from Covid while some of her friends claimed it was a hoax. On one occasion, she passed a popular outdoor restaurant where a crowd of unmasked people cavorted while waiting for a table. She knew a percentage of those people were likely sick and a few might die. But they gathered and laughed as if everything was normal. She couldn’t understand their thinking.
I’ve remained healthy, even while working in at-risk environments. Unlike some of my anti-vax friends, I don’t brag about superior immune systems or personal vitality. I’ve been lucky. That’s all. I’ve worked among people who’ve gotten sick and I recognize the stress on their faces. I feel it too.
The current Covid regulations are frustrating. I’m forced to spend extra hours each day in order to keep working. I also have to pay for the privilege. But I’ll suck it up. I’ll give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.
It’s better now than a year ago. In early-2021, the communities where I worked were in lockdown. I went from teaching 50 classes a month to zero. If not for unemployment benefits, I don’t know how I would’ve survived.
I’m still able to work at this point. It means passing through a series of frustrating and expensive hoops, but I’ll manage. The current Los Angeles mandates are effective through February 7th. At that point they’ll be reexamined. I’m praying the spread of Omicron will diminish and the mandates will change. Until that happens, I’ll continue to give to God that which is God’s. My faith is my life raft.