5 Things I Will Remember

The news came like the first rays of sunshine bursting through the clouds after a long and dreary rainstorm.  It was as surprising as it was welcome.  On Friday the Governor of Pennsylvania announced that our part of the state would be moving from a red to yellow status on June 5th.  After ten long weeks, we will no longer be under stay-at-home orders.  While things will be far from normal and many precautions will remain in place, this news felt like a glass of cold water to a man emerging from a trek across the desert.  Finally, something to look forward to and a glimmer of hope that things are beginning to move in the right direction.  Maybe we could even begin planning some family getaways.  Oh, how quickly my mind began plotting the future.  Then it hit me.

I am so future focused that I can easily ignore the blessings of the present moment and the lessons of the past.  So, for today, before I go racing into some new unknown future with all of its uncertainties and challenges, I will take a moment to think about those things that I must not forget.   These are some of the lessons I have learned during this strange season of sorrow, silence and solitude.

  1. Sometimes more information is not helpful.

Very early on in this crisis, I realized that one of my core daily habits was no longer useful.  For many years, I had made it my practice to watch the nightly news each evening to catch up on the activities of the day.  As each new day proceeded, it dawned on me that the news was not really changing and often it was creating more confusion than clarity.  Even the experts were struggling to interpret the data they were receiving.  Worse yet, it was really easy to get sucked into the vortex of becoming fixated on the data on escalating new cases and deaths being reported each day.  The information overload became overwhelming, fear producing and unhealthy for my soul.  Choosing to watch less television news, to use that time with my family and to curate my information intake became a new norm.  This I will remember.

  1. Loss of proximity does not mean the loss of presence.

When we first learned about the stay-at-home restrictions and the concept of self-quarantining, I had the reaction that most extraverts did.  This was going to be terrible.  I love being around other people and get energy from them.  How was I going to survive multiple weeks around a small group of people, even if they were my family who I love dearly?  Fortunately, the answer to that question came pretty quickly.  Many of the technologies that I had simply taken for granted became lifelines and old technology became relevant again.  Suddenly, Zoom became ubiquitous and FaceTime took on new meaning.  Letter writing was now in vogue again for some and I actually looked forward to getting physical mail.  People took time to reach out to me just to see how I was doing.  I was someone’s neighbor and they wanted me to know it.  This I will not forget.

  1. Intimacy requires intentionality.

In late March something wonderful and surprising took place.  As the significance of the crisis came into full view and the meaning of self-isolation took hold, group behavior started to change.  My brother suggested that our weekly WhatsApp call should be changed to a family Zoom call and suddenly, my family of origin was seeing each other again every Sunday night.  One of my friends from the Philly area suggested that we start up our Friday morning men’s gathering again via Zoom and we “got the gang back together again”.  Our church community group had been meeting every other week.  Someone suggested meeting weekly via Zoom and this became the new norm.  In each case, intentionality bred better and more significant intimacy.  These virtual conversations strengthened our bonds of friendship and helped us to bear each other’s burdens.  We learned to lament and laugh together.  This I will remember.

  1. The little things really do matter.

I am not sure if it was the hoarding of toilet paper or the lack of hand sanitizer, but the combination of both things missing every week in the grocery store served as ominous reminders of the fragility of our supply chain and how much certain things matter.  As the weeks wore on, I began to notice and appreciate other small things too.  The hand wave and smile from the neighbor walking his dog took on new meaning.  Conversations across the backyards from porch to porch in our development became the highlight of a day.  Watching the flowers come into bloom brought reminders that new life and a new day were still possible.  Being able to take a walk and breathe fresh air brought new joy and gratitude.  This I will remember.

  1. Creativity is not limited by governmental restrictions.

For many people (me included) these past few weeks have been really hard.  Parents have become exhausted in having to care for kids that would normally be in school and graduating students have felt the sting of not being able to celebrate in normal ways.  Remarkably, so many have responded to this crisis in creative ways and have inspired all kinds of new innovations.  The arts community has led the way with numerous groups finding ways to sing together on-line and putting smiles on our faces.  Authors have done live readings and group discussions to engage their audiences.  Painters have created webinars to teach people new techniques.  My favorite innovation, however, is the grandmother whose family found a way to create a safe method for hugging in their driveway.  They created a plastic barrier with arms.  That’s right, grandma could come right up to the barrier and put her hands through it and hug her grandkids.  What an inspiration.  This I will remember.

As I look forward to the days ahead, I will not soon forget the example set by the people of Italy.  When they were stuck at home watching so many being hospitalized, they chose to come out once a day onto their balconies and to sing together.  Shared sorrow turned into shared lament and ultimately a reminder of the power of community to bring joy, even if only for a moment.


1 Comment

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One response to “5 Things I Will Remember

  1. Karen Clark

    Thank you, Dave. This is beautiful, and true.

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