LETTER: A love letter to Squamish’s drive-thru COVID test site | Squamish Chief

LETTER: A love letter to Squamish’s drive-thru COVID test site

I’m having the best day.

Not surprising really, given that I’m in love.

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Yep, I’m in love. With Squamish’s drive-thru COVID test site. (Well not exactly with the test site, but with the community-minded folks who are making it happen.) How brilliant is this: a neighbourhood pub, shut due to COVID, is now hosting gowned healthcare workers wielding very, very long cotton swabs. Held by the ivy-clad walls of The Shady Tree pub, this dedicated team is swabbing Squamish citizens with symptoms.

From the moment I started coughing late yesterday afternoon, I’ve had an amazing experience. We are lucky here, which isn’t the case for everyone. In Ontario this week it took my sister six days to get tests for my nieces who came home from their first week of school with a bug.

Once I realized I was sick, I called 811. After 20 minutes on hold, a kind woman picked up, listened to my story and suggested I head in for a test. I rolled up to see cars lined up out to the roadside. A smiling woman in a poncho greeted me with instructions,

“It’s busy today, so you’ll likely have to wait two to three hours. We’re so sorry. Maybe you’d like to get a coffee first so you can be more comfortable while you wait in your car?”

The wait didn’t bother me one bit. My nieces in Ontario called me while I waited to prepare me for what a test feels like.

“It felt kind of weird. I cried a bit,” said five-year old Stella, “then after we got a treat.”

“Mine tickled!” squealed three-year old Poppy.

Mine tickled too. In fact, I laughed and laughed as the swab touched various parts of my brain.

As I waited in line (which turned out to be less than two hours — way to under-promise and over-deliver, team!) my car battery died. A woman behind me leaned out of her car to make sure I had jumper cables and that I’d be okay. I feel proud to live in a town like this.

I want to thank the group of folks who stood out in the rain all day to keep Squamish a little safer. I see you. You’ve never met me before today, but I love you. I love you in your raincoats and masks. I love that you’ve shown up.  I loved the two-hour wait, and all my stranger/neighbours here in their cars with their masks — looking out for one another by lining up.

At the start, COVID-19 collapsed a lot of us. We were scared. For many of us, it shrunk our horizons of caring in an instant. “Am I going to die? Is my family okay?” Our prime minister stood up and said: “Enjoy this time to slow down and be with your immediate family.”

Not all of us could. And very few of us were able to look out our windows in those early days to say, “Hey, what about them? Are they okay too? What about that woman who lives alone, and the man I see every day by the river with his shopping cart? What about the folks I don’t even know? Are they okay too?”

Eventually, we landed enough to extend our compassion beyond the doors behind which we were self-isolating. This is what I’m working with now: how can we stay expanded? How can we keep loving, even when we feel afraid? Because that’s the kind of love we need to change the world. We need a love big enough to hold and include not just those with whom you share your home, but those outside too. And so I love the Squamish drive-thru COVID-19 test site at The Shady Tree pub. And I love every moment that someone’s taken to poke their head up and say to another they don’t know, “Hey, are you okay over there?”

Here’s what love looks like to me in the year 2020:

It looks like the woman who answered my 811 call;

It looks like the kid stocking eggs at the grocery store;

It looks like my cousin in Calgary making me a three-hour COVID test lineup playlist;

It looks like the folks wearing masks in the street calling out for justice and for change;

It looks like Stella and Poppy calling me to say, “It only hurts a teeny bit… and you can get a treat after!”

It looks like a healthcare worker, the man driving the recycling truck, and the everyday heroes who have no choice but to keep showing up.

It looks like the artists, the activists, the writers and researchers and the scientists who have come together for solutions and change.

It looks like everyone who is stretching their horizon of caring just a little bit wider to include someone new, or someone they’ll never know.

Stay stretched. Keep loving.

I love you.

Heather Hendrie, Squamish

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