What To Do When You Shelter In Place

Welcome to the Evertsberg’s home. Bill shares some memorable last lines from literature and gives a special thank-you to the congregation.

Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg. I’m one of the pastors at Kenilworth Union Church and this is Doogie, my assistant pastor. You know, the only ones who really like this quarantine thing are our dogs, right? So Kathy and Doogie have been getting in about 15,000 steps a day. But, if you have four feet, and Kathy gets 15,000 steps a day, does that mean Doogie gets 30,000? I don’t know the answer to that.

Anyway, I’ve always loved the work of the great essayist Lance Morrow. A couple of weeks ago Lance had a great column in the Wall Street Journal called “What To Do When You Shelter In Place.” Lance had a lot of advice for us. He said, for instance, make your bed every day; comb your hair; wear real clothes, not sweatpants or pajamas. And Lance had a lot of other things to tell us as well, but one thing that caught my attention is that Lance wants us to read to each other aloud every evening. If we are with our family or with our partner, we should read to each other from a great book. Lance suggested War and Peace but Kathy and I selected George Eliot’s Middlemarch because, like War and Peace, it’s one of those obese books which is too big for its own good, and it’s nice to have an accountability partner to make sure that you stay with that book until the end. 840 pages in Middlemarch. So that’s what we are doing starting the other day and continuing as long as it takes us.

So I have a question for you: what novel has the greatest last line of them all? I’m sure you have your ideas and you can email those to me, but as you might guess, I have a few suggestions. I’ve been spending some time with The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby this week, great last line. Nick Carraway writes, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Charles Dickens has two candidates for the greatest last line. “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” A Tale of Two Cities, of course. And this great last line: “And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” A Christmas Carol.

How’s this for a great last line: “After all, tomorrow is another day.” Gone With the Wind.

And, Moby Dick gets a vote for greatest last line because of its tremendous biblical imagery: “On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last,” Ishmael is writing. “It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.” Great last line. Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

But maybe you’ve guessed by now that my candidate for greatest last line in a novel is, in fact, George Eliot’s Middlemarch. One of my favorite lines in all of literature. “For the growing good of the world is hardly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number of people who lived faithfully a hidden life, and now rest in unvisited tombs.” The greatness of hidden lives and secret deeds, right?

So, I told a friend the other day—I was complaining to my friend—I said that I think I’m working harder during quarantine than I did before all of this mess happened when I was still at the church. I said to him, “I got one hundred emails today.” But then I stopped myself and reminded myself that most of those 100 emails came from you, my congregation members, saying things like “thank you,” and “we’re praying for you,” and “good job,” and “last week’s worship service moved me,” and “keep up the good work,” and that means so much to the staff at Kenilworth Union Church. So thank you, thank you, thank you for your quiet acts and your secret deeds. The lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you and yours. Goodbye and amen.