Editor’s note: This story is part of a series in which reporters check with Central Illinoisans about how their lives have changed in the pandemic. Read the series here.
The Rev. Wayne Dunning misses the YMCA.
“I’m a physical person,” said Dunning, pastor of Faith Fellowship Christian Church. “I miss the YMCA and it’s not just for exercise, but the camaraderie, where we can sit down and talk and solve the world’s problems in 15 minutes. It’s the fellowship, the knowing you’re doing something good for your body, your mind and your spirit. I miss the physical activity.”
As a sports fan, Dunning said, he’s also missing the basketball and hockey playoffs that would be on TV now, and baseball games, and coaching, too. As a teacher, he misses his students, though he suspected when schools closed in March that it was over for the year.
But he’s also found some bright spots. Joking that his own and his mother’s cooking and the lack of going to the Y has had a detrimental effect on his weight, he said he’s been walking around his neighborhood and has met neighbors he didn’t know before.
“I talk to my wife, and I’ve learned to spend time with some kids at church who ordinarily wouldn’t spend time with me,” he said. “I cut my neighbor’s grass. Now I have time to do stuff I should probably be doing anyway. I visit my mother and not just for her cooking.”
He’s also strict with himself over precautions due to coronavirus. A few times, he’s left home headed for some destination and realized on the way that he forgot his mask. He turns back and goes home for it, even if he’s almost there when he realizes he forgot it.
“I can’t just preach it, I have to do it,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
A virus can seem to go away and come back stronger and different, he said, and he isn’t willing to risk his own or others’ health by slacking off on those precautions.
“We have to be persistent, aggressive and prayerful, and stay on point,” Dunning said. “We don’t want it to happen again, not to the economy, or families, or our communities, or the people who have been affected.”
As Illinois moves into Phase 4, Dunning said he doesn’t plan to relax his vigilance.
“Of course I, like many others, want our world as we knew it pre-pandemic to return to normal,” he said. “I desire that small business, restaurants, churches and recreation centers open. However, the numbers say that COVID-19 is still here and people are still going to the hospital and some of them are still dying. When we open, we ought not to loosen our awareness and personal responsibility to protect ourselves and others from possible infection.”
And with the racial tensions and unrest in the nation over the death of George Floyd, Dunning has also taken action to do what he can to make things better. On Wednesdays at his church at 2701 Faries Parkway, he’s holding 6 p.m. “Courageous Conversations About Race.” Practicing social distancing and following health guidelines with masks on, he invites anyone to come and take part in the talks, and has set up guidelines for those to allow people to face difficult topics together.
“I love my city, and we’re going to turn a negative into a positive,” he said. “We come out with ground rules: no criticizing; you can’t look aghast or ‘you can’t think that, you can’t say that.’ Everybody has their question and their answer, and we give everybody space.”
The idea is to build friendships so that people actually get to know each other on a level that allows them to ask questions and learn from each other.
“We all have preconceived ideas,” Dunning said. “But if we don’t ask the questions, as they say, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. We just have to ask those questions. You may not like my question but I’ve got to ask it, and ask the person of the different race, don’t ask a person of the same race. We’re in a polite room, friendly, Spirit-filled, and there’s no penalty for any questions so ask away. I love it.”
Wayne Dunning’s BASIC Fundamentals Basketball Camp
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