Goodness in the Pandemic
A mere five months ago, the streets of DC were bustling with busy Washingtonians rushing from work to networking events to happy hours, squeezing in workout sessions at Orange Theory, and strictly 45 minute coffee meet ups. Conversations with passersby whom you happened to know went something along the lines of “Hi, long time no see! How’s work? Oh, good! Let’s catch up soon!” These D.C. pleasantries were exchanged with both parties understanding that, although it would certainly be nice to catch up, very important and more pressing matters were sure to arise.
But Friday, March 13th arrived mercilessly, bringing with it the news that we were in a State of Emergency. Covid-19 was here, and after one presidential conference, our daily lives became unrecognizable. Gatherings were all but banned, taking with them the networking events and happy hours. Gyms were closed, and walking into a Starbucks to be greeted by the aroma of a Blonde Roast and a friendly cashier sure to misspell your name on a coffee cup had become a thing of the past.
As Washingtonians retreated into their homes, opted for InstaCart, and began to engage in online debates about Tiger King and the merits of wearing a face mask, the streets of D.C. became barren. Could any good come from this season of quarantine, in which so many things that had been part of our lives were suddenly snatched away? Truthfully, it can be hard to answer in the affirmative, especially when so many communities have been hit by Covid-19 ruthlessly. Lives have been lost, as has the stability and livelihood of many people with job losses. Landmark events, like weddings, graduations, and funerals have been postponed, cancelled, or, at best, modified to suit the present times. It has been awful. However in the midst of this tragedy, I’ve found there to be silver linings. And if there’s any good in the midst of this situation, let us make the most of it.
In the silence, you can hear His still small voice.
Quarantine brought the forced silent retreat. No more filling your calendar with socials, happy hours, or networking events. No more bustling streets to distract your mind. Suddenly, there’s a choice. Be swept up in the pessimism of the endless and ever hopeless news cycle, numb the pain with hours upon hours of social media, or… look outwardly and meet Him in the silence. In this forced retreat, with our distractions taken away from us, we have the grand opportunity to be found by Jesus in the silence and encounter His love. We can take to heart the words of Saint Mother Teresa, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Practically, how can this be done? Personally, I’ve found meditation of scripture or in a spiritual exercise such as that of St. Ignatius to be very powerful. When we stay in prayer in the silence (however uncomfortable it may be), communicating with the Lord, His Spirit meets us. He allows us to face those parts of ourselves that we struggle to love or those wounds we are frightened of, acknowledge them, and surrender them to the Lord and receive His healing.
Cultivating a Home and Neighborhood Community
In pre-Covid times, the beautiful 1880’s crew house I rent was just a place to sleep, but once quarantine hit, I had the opportunity to really turn it into my home. This came with getting to know the other girls I live with better (after all, we saw a lot more of each other now!) and practically handling issues that our lovely, but not fully renovated, house needed to have fixed. Additionally, we began to take care of our garden and started focusing on cultivating a beautiful home. In this slower pace world, suddenly it was possible to appreciate and participate in the art of taking care of a house.
I also got to know my neighborhood much better. Taking walks, I came to appreciate the beauty of Capitol Hill in a way that I would have not acknowledged in a busier world. Through my frequent visits to pray at my nearby church, I got to know my pastor. And through spontaneous run-ins with people I would have considered mere acquaintances previously, I began to form friendships. For the first time in two years since moving to D.C., I had a sense that I belonged to a community.
Discovering Intentionality Rather than Productivity
The go-getter UVA student in me found the productivity-centered culture in D.C. familiar and easy to be drawn into. But the pace of this new Covid-world harkened back to the slow summers I spent in Charlottesville in between my university years. It was here that I began to discover the value of intentionality rather than productivity. My activities were no longer “checkboxes.” Phone conversations I had with friends were now richer. I started to do barre online, intentionally choosing to do an exercise I found fun and healthy. I set apart time for leisurely walks and prayer time, knowing that these were key to my spiritual and mental well-being. And when I serendipitously ran into friends, I could intentionally gave them my time and attention, instead of focusing on the next activity I had scheduled to run off to. I even gave myself permission to rest and nap. I now find that during the day, my activities are done more slowly, more deliberately, more intentionally, not with the pressure of “just get it done and move on to the next thing”. And as a consequence I find that I have a greater sense of peace and even purpose.
Undoubtedly, we all look forward to the end of the Covid-19 Pandemic. But as Einstein once said, “in the midst of every crisis lies a great opportunity.” We Christians might phrase it as “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). While we are in the midst of this trying time, let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us see those hidden Covid blessings, and hope that when we look back at this time of pandemic, we’ll be able to acknowledge that, through it all, God was pouring out countless graces and blessings.
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