The Day the Toilet Paper Disappeared

I was a bit distracted from the news that week. We welcomed a foster daughter (let’s call her T) into our home 6 days prior, with the thought it would likely be a longer-term placement. She was having a hard time, missing her mom and her home, so most of my attention had been fixed on her. That Thursday, I went to church where I work in childcare one morning a week. T enjoyed her first day in the pre-K class before we met friends at the park for a picnic. Every moment was still full of firsts for T, but she was handling it all like a champ. I had realized by this point the best remedy for moments of sadness were a long hug and some soft words of comfort. If given her moment to grieve, she’d bounce right back to that sweet smile soon enough. 

Prior to T’s arrival, I had closely followed the coronavirus crisis in China, praying diligently for the safety of my ESL students on the other side of the world. I knew it was starting to spread globally, but it still seemed a long way away from our little town in South Carolina. I remember, though, my co-workers that Thursday morning talking about the virus and my friend and I at the park discussing whether or not we should be concerned. There were so many other things taking up space in my mind that the growing alarm around me still didn’t fully register. 

Half-way through our picnic and playtime, I got a text I wasn’t expecting. T would be leaving us that day, going to live with a family member (so we were told). I had a million questions and no answers. My mind started racing with all the things I needed to do. We quickly put away our lunches and headed home to start packing. After picking up my boys at school, the kids enjoyed a few more minutes playing together outside before it was time to say goodbye. 

It was around 3:00 when we said goodbye and I gave her one last hug. My husband unfortunately was unable to get home from work that quickly. When he did get home, our conversation focused, of course, on the events of the day. He held me as I cried. We talked with our boys and walked with them through some of their feelings. 

Yet even in sadness and pain, other parts of life have a way of marching on as they always have. Since Friday is my typical grocery day, my husband mentioned we were running low on toilet paper, then said he thought he’d seen something about toilet paper on Facebook that day. I said I saw a joke about someone running low on toilet paper too. Weird, huh? 

One comment led to another, which led to another. Eventually out of curiosity and rising concern, we each headed to our phones. Sure enough, social media was full of dire news that toilet paper shelves were bare. I can’t begin to explain my confusion and disbelief in that moment. Nor do I think I need to, because surely this is a shared experience we all have in common!

Perhaps this wasn’t quite as shocking to some who had been engaged in the developing news story all week. For me, it felt like my feet had been kicked out from under my already shaky legs. I stared at my husband: “Do you think I need to go to Walmart tonight? Or can it wait till tomorrow?” Back and forth we went for twenty valuable minutes. Finally, I decided to push past my emotional exhaustion and hit the store that night. An hour later, after stopping at multiple stores, I headed home empty handed.

My husband, who is ever resourceful, entirely stubborn, and petrified of the thought of no toilet paper, didn’t rest that night until he had secured us a 60-count box of toilet paper on Amazon – even though it cost three times what it should have. I’ve never been so grateful for his maddening persistence!

By the end of the day, as we lay in bed not knowing what the days and weeks to come would hold, my husband and I prayed for peace and safety, as we so often do, for our family, for our foster kids (past and future), and for the world. We grieved, we worshipped, and we looked ahead with hope. Now, eight weeks later, as our state cautiously emerges from lockdown, I am reminded of the day that started it all: the day the toilet paper disappeared. I know my response today should be the same as it was then. I will take a moment to grieve for what’s been lost. I will worship in gratitude. I will look ahead to the future with hope. I will continue to pray for the peace and safety of us all.