If you were to make a list of essential items, I bet that you’d write down things like vegetables, pasta, bread, soup, eggs, milk, medications, soap, toilet paper, tampons, bleach, and other items that just make sense. (Me, I’d add beer and a Netflix subscription.)
On your list, where would you rank religious figurines, rosaries, and bookmarks with Bible quotes?
Not high enough, probably, if Barbara Gaskell had anything to say about it. Gaskell, the owner of a religious bookstore in Jackson Township, Ohio named St. Raphael says that the rosaries and Jesus tchotchkes — and of course, religious tomes — are vital in these times,
… essential needs to help people weather the myriad challenges posed by the pandemic. …
Gaskell said spiritual food is just as important as the physical kind. “I think Jesus is essential, and growing in the knowledge of God is essential.”
The businesswoman claims the state allows her to reopen the store, as religious entities are exempt from the rules that apply to other types of enterprise. And so, this week, St. Raphael was suddenly back in business. I mean, hadn’t Gaskell suffered enough?
March’s temporary closing came at a crucial time for religious goods stores, shortly before Holy Week and Easter, and around the time when many Catholic families begin planning for first communions and confirmations, Gaskell said.
You know, if there’s one kind of retail business that can switch to a mail-order model practically overnight and continue to supply regulars with whatever they need, surely it’s bookstores. Hell, I buy perishable items from local shops all the time now, and have them shipped or delivered to my home for a small fee — everything from Indian food to fresh-roasted coffee beans.
But such solutions aren’t good enough for Gaskell.
“Of course we want to do all the safe-distancing practices. But people are so isolated. I feel like there’s such a spiritual component to this. People are starving. They want to talk about Jesus, they want to read about Jesus … especially during this time. We’re Easter people. We’re people of hope, we’re people of resurrection. Sooner or later we have to come out.”
Gaskell said she thinks St. Raphael offers the community an important service. “We do a lot more than sell books. We also listen,” she said.
But not to reason.
P.S.: Among all 50 states, Ohio had the 10th highest number of new COVID-19 deaths yesterday, and the 13th highest number of known active cases. According to the website of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the data for Ohio currently show that
After May 14, 2020, relaxing social distancing may be possible with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size.
May, not April.
(Image via Shutterstock)