I can still picture the moment in March when I realized life, as I knew it, was going to be completely interrupted. Working nearly full time as a substitute teacher had become part of my daily rhythm. It was also my current calling, where I found fulfillment. In addition, my daily rhythm operated harmoniously with the ones created by my husband’s job and my young adult children’s school and work schedules. Yes, it was hectic at times, yet predictable. I found that comforting.
So on that March morning, my type-A personality that thrives on expected outcomes encountered an unexpected blockade. Everything, it seemed, came to a screeching halt. Although echoes of the upcoming changes permeated my ears for weeks earlier, they hadn’t seemed plausible. Until that day. Our rhythms shifted, our landscape transformed. What were the implications for us personally and as members of a community?
My husband’s one-hour commute into the city detoured to a five-minute walk to the dining room table. My high-school and college-aged children’s bedrooms became virtual classrooms. And I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do because schools were closed. So on that day etched so visibly in my mind, I plopped on the couch and decided to catch up on favorite television shows. Ironically, my choice that day could not have been more relevant to my reality: “The Twilight Zone.” We were all living different narratives and they influenced our perceptions of this “new dimension.”
Feeling Conflicting Emotions
For me, the implications of quarantining and adjustment to pandemic implications brought me face to face with a whirlwind of emotions. The 24-hour news coverage and statistics felt overwhelming at times. Once in a while, I yielded to fear while also recognizing how little control I held over its seemingly massive wave. I also grieved not just for loss of life, but income, food disparity, and the downsides of online education for certain demographics of students.
And I struggled to reconcile those differences with what the quarantine meant for my own family. Truthfully, it felt like a blessing. After 15 years of unexpected job loss, a chronic piling of medical bills, and navigating through various health struggles, we had reached a stable place. My husband started a new job which he loves and which affords him the opportunity to work from home. Our young-adult children worked jobs which were considered essential and provided income for college tuition. The youngest, a high-school senior, adapted to online school with few challenges.
After a long time living in unpredictability, financial stress, and seasons of trauma, we rested. We binged on television shows, worked on puzzles, and baked. But how could I reconcile this place of restoration and renewal for us when others were experiencing more difficult circumstances?
I wondered how God might use me to partner in the work of restoration in the destructive trail of the pandemic. Our blessings, in whatever form they may take—time, health, resources, and skills—are always meant to be shared. The pandemic prompted many of us to ask “How is God working? How can I be a part of it?” These ancient questions have poured from the lips of the Church throughout time regardless of circumstances.
Discerning next steps, I found my footing in this unfamiliar territory. The very circumstances that changed life as most of us knew it, allowed for new ways to share life together. Despite the inability to physically connect, our family found opportunities to help in tangible ways those who were impacted differently than us. Having been on the receiving end when others did that for us, we passed on the blessing. We found joy in sending gift cards to friends whose job revenue took a hit, and in supporting local businesses. Choosing a weekly restaurant to order from became a fun collaborative family effort. In addition, I ran errands for those unable to navigate outside their homes for various reasons. I was invited to share in book launches and manuscript reviews, and collaborate on the implementation of an online mental-health conference. These moments were not even on my radar three months earlier. But new opportunities to love our neighbors emerged and with them came a multitude of blessings.
In Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Blue Man describes the profound way our narratives, no matter how different, impact all of us. “Each affects the other, and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.” Historically and globally, our agendas are never guaranteed. Some outcomes of that reality are embraced more than others. But we must remember that we can cling to God’s mercies as we learn to adapt. We have been there before. So has God. And we are blessed when we allow ourselves to participate in the story.
Image from 1643606 on Pixabay