There is a beautiful stately old church in downtown Portland. Built in 1894, it is multiple stories tall, when that part of Portland was prosperous and safe. You can see this church in old drawings of Portland. That part of Portland has not aged gracefully and is frequented by the homeless.

In an alcove, exists a small courtyard where there is a fountain. Above that fountain is inscribed scripture from Isaiah. It says: “Come all who are thirsty. Come and drink freely.”

One could not drink from the fountain because the alcove was blocked by a high wrought iron grill gate. A sign placed on the gate stated: “No Loitering — Church Business only — Police Enforced.”

I could understand why both messages had been placed. The original inscription above the fountain was intended to express the central message of the Gospel. The second message was a pragmatic one to prevent people from expressing their bodily functions in the fountain.

But something has been lost. Something important. Life is messy and is lived in reality, on life’s terms, not good intentions from a safe distance. It’s tempting to separate yourself from the unclean and look toward your own interest.

Jesus was not a man for others. He was one with others. People want to leverage Jesus into taking the right stand on issues, their preferences, their purposes. But Jesus just stood in the right place, with the outcast, with the suffering. He didn’t support lepers from a safe distance. He touched the leper before he got around to curing him.

2020 was a difficult year. 39 people in Douglas County died of COVID-19. Precious souls. 1,636 deaths were due to causes other than COVID-19. Also, precious. 28 deaths were due to suicide. Had you heard of them? And these are events we can measure.

Much that matters cannot be easily tabulated. Alcohol, drug, and family abuse. Mental illness. Isolated seniors unable to visit with those they love, slowly losing their mind and desire to live. Children baffled by rules that no longer fit the game, reclining in rumpled beds of unmade dreams that can’t come true, because of adult fears.

And the Church is too easy a target. Other social institutions have failed to keep faith with their implied promise to the community during this time of COVID. At the very time they were needed most. An infant’s trust in their mother is borne out of dependency. It is beautiful to see unless that trust is broken. This community is dependent, in differing degrees, with the social contract it shares with government, medical and educational institutions. But promises are worthless if they depend on how you feel.

Most Douglas County schools have remained closed or provide severely limited in-person learning. Many medical clinic services are largely virtual. Our Social Security office has been closed since March, leaving behind a barely penetrable website for seniors.

Meanwhile, grocery and retail store workers, service station attendants and others have declared themselves essential by showing up.

There is power of presence. We cannot pretend virtual services offer the same. It is a difference as large as the distance between the sun and the moon. The moon reflects light and will guide our path through the darkness. But there is no warmth. And that’s tragic. Because this is the power needed for healing.

It is that very brokenness, whether of disease, physical, spiritual, or financial needs that is an open door to make a difference. It’s how the light gets in. If everything worked perfectly, society would have no need of these organizations. It is only when they bring help and healing to a community that is hurting that they are relevant.

People say that when one door closes another door opens. But sometimes there is a hallway, a period before people find the next door. Our task is to line the hallway, to make that distance stretching between the old and new versions of one’s life a comforting one.

I don’t have the right name for what happens in that darkness, for what turns them around. But I know that it requires we share something of ourselves. Something true, something relevant, something that can bring healing to a troubled and broken spirit. Something that won’t happen unless we show up.

It is time to open our schools and our community, while still protecting our most vulnerable. Time to fulfill our promise. Now could be the moment when we fall apart, or we become whole.

Tim Powell. M.D., is the Chief Executive Officer and medical director for Evergreen Family Medicine on West Harvard Avenue.

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(19) comments

Mike

Since this column advocating loosening Douglas County coronavirus restrictions was published two days ago, the following has occurred:

1. Douglas County has broken the all-time high record number of coronavirus cases for one day.

2. Douglas County has broken the all-time high record number of coronavirus cases for one week.

3. Douglas County has broken the all-time record high number of school outbreak cases in one week.

4. Douglas County has broken the all-time senior assisted living outbreak record high number of cases in the past week.

5. Douglas County has broken the all-time work place outbreak record high number of cases in the past week.

6. DPHN announced it will not be receiving any more coronavirus vaccine for the second week in a row.

If you believe ANY of Dr. Powell's politically driven rhetoric, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

CitizenJoe

Hmmm: Logorrhea, flight of ideas, tangentiality, hyperreligiosity, circumstantiality....

mworden

You're not making a diagnosis, merely speculating on what could be going on in a situation like this. Does Evergreen have a neurologist on staff?

CitizenJoe

mworden: Not even speculating; merely observing. As in: bird, orange-red breast, brown back, dark grey head, yellowish bill, pulling worms out of the ground in the springtime....

mworden

Change logorrhea to hypergraphia and one cannot help but observe.

My family has been discussing changing medical providers. But the fact is that we've received excellent medical care through Evergreen. We've never met the Doctors Powell and don't know how much actual medical influence they have on our providers. The whole thing is creating cognitive dissonance, distinct feelings of unease. We're still up in the air.

CitizenJoe

mworden: you are correct

cipherself

This is gibberish!

mworden

The thing about this opinion piece by Dr. Tim Powell that bugs me most is that when you get down to the very end, he says it's time to open our community and schools. Where have you been Dr. Tim Powell?

Businesses have been open for weeks. Many schools are also open. All that time you were preaching not wearing-masks.

Now the number of infections have increased to the point that we may have to shut-down again. Do you see any connections between increased infections and your preaching against masks and other covid restrictions?

GhostofTMcCall

A lot to unpack here. He starts by trivializing the COVID-19 deaths, which he inaccurately reports (It's actually 51 deaths as of this morning -- and a number that is likely to climb after the surge of cased over the last two weeks). He does this by comparing the COVID-19 deaths to all other deaths in Douglas County. The only fair comparison would be with other preventable deaths. His timing is also impeccable -- what he is proposing is that during a time when we having our very worst case counts -- is also the time we should be the most lax in our safety precautions against COVID-19. He doesn't say, "open up, but please everyone wear masks, avoid groups, socially distance, and get vaccinated as soon as you are able." He just simply quotes scripture, misuses COVID-19 death data, uses emotional imagery of lonely seniors, and says open up. Look up the word propaganda in the dictionary. Its a doubling (or is it tripling at this point?) down on his herd immunity nonsense -- which has been widely debunked in the larger (peer reviewed and heavily scrutinized) medical community.

Contrary to others opinions on here -- I think Dr. Dannenhoffer has done a great job getting accurate information to the public about COVID-19 and providing sound advice based on real medical science about how to keep our community safe. Unfortunately, we live in a society where a growing number of people gravitate towards the opinions that make them feel the best -- and opening up and living our normal lives sure sounds good...

Momos

Reading this was like watching a marble bounce around in a pachinko game. Finally, he gets to the punch line. "It is time to open our schools and our community, while still protecting our most vulnerable." That sentence is contradictory with a pandemic going on. Doctor, explain how we do that in no more than two sentences, this time without religious references. You know, like actual, real science. Don't pontificate, just summarize that point for us. Can you do that?

CitizenJoe

Momos: Yep. "It is time to open our schools and our community, while still protecting our most vulnerable." Also, clean coal.

Now, in fairness, it is possible to open schools safely--but it's not done by simple declaration; community transmission has to be reduced to certain (scientifically determined) levels; ventilation systems have to be adequate; the school has to ensure masking, distancing, hygiene, and so on; and then, safety is a relative, not absolute, thing: in a nation of over 300 million, some children and some teachers and some custodians and some nurses and doctors who cared for them will sicken and die because of the reopening.

NJ

Excuse me Dr. Prophet, but wasn't it your clinic I was in last March, surprised that no one on staff was masked up as mandated? When asked why, wasn't it a receptionist under your supervision that pronounced confidently it was all the doctors' decision that no masks were needed? "They decided it's a virus that's been around for a long time already, a lot of people have already had it so masks don't make a difference now"... ? What makes you now come out with some sort of "come to Jesus" epiphany about the opinions of others as to vaccinations? Bless, oh bless those 39 precious souls who very well may have become infected because someone who visited one of your clinics started passing around a deadly virus that eventually found them. Spare me your sermon at the messy gate of life. At this point, I'm in no mood for disingenuous preaching.

CitizenJoe

NJ: Wow. Your story indicates a terrible history at that clinic; moreover, a dangerous mindset. Cray-cray appears to be familial....

Citizen495

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Marine Vet

WOW. Dr Death Incarnate. And in the over 5 years of living in Roseburg. I have YET to see A Single New Testament Quote on Any of the local church's. Plenty of Old Testament tho. Rath of God, Eye for a Eye, You know the Fear Mongering type stuff. No Jesus here in Roseburg.

S

Seriously, someone needs to take away your pen.

Imjustme

[thumbup]

CitizenJoe

S: yes. And thank you; brevity is the soul of wit.

melrosereader

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