For the past several years, I have used the week leading up to my birthday to reflect on the past year… what has gone well, what I had wished had happened differently, and what I hope for in the coming year. I consider it my personal inventory. I do this for several reasons, but mainly because I want to try and cherish what I have or find the “silver lining” in things that I may not have been able to recognize or appreciate at the moment.
I bring up this idea now as Governor Newsom is helping the state prepare to remove almost all COVID-related restrictions two weeks from today (June 15). For many, this past Memorial Weekend was the first time they got together with friends and family they have missed being with for the past 15 months. As our lives slowly begin to move forward, I think it would be appropriate to look back and reflect and see what we have learned.
First and foremost, people are good and care about one another. This was evident from the beginning. It is why so many people were reaching out and checking on people. Even picking up groceries and other items from people who couldn’t leave their homes. And, we have a deeper appreciation for those who put their lives second so others could be cared for. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed more people appreciating doctors, nurses, EMTs, even grocery workers like they have during this time. While it may not have felt like we took these people for granted, I don’t think we always recognized them for the sacrifices they made day in and day out.
Second… experiences such as what we have been going through have sparked ingenuity and creativity like never before. Don’t believe me…. raise your hand if you ever would have considered putting rainbows or teddy bears in your window so families could go on a rainbow/teddy bear hunt. How about making signs to put in your yard or car windows to celebrate front-line responders? How about drive-by birthday parties, graduations, or other celebrations? While many of us have always valued supporting small businesses and restaurants, this idea intensified for many.
Third, and I think the most important is that we witnessed this past year is people expressing a deep connection and need for others. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” I know I felt this “loss” and tried to find different ways to connect with family and friends. It is why there were so many “family reunions” on Zoom, Google Meets, and other digital platforms. These connections also led to creative ways for congregations to help their members feel connected. Things like bedtime stories and prayers, challah delivery, even virtual Shabbat services, Havdalah, concerts, or other programs helped people feel less isolated. Heck… even this column was begun to help people feel less isolated as we were going through the pandemic.
It is unclear at this point how our lives have been impacted and forever changed because of the pandemic… only time will tell. But, one change that I hope never goes away is the feeling of togetherness and valuing what we have… in the moment we have it. That sense of appreciation and fully treasuring the experience will help us not take things for granted… knowing full well that it can be taken away from us like so many things were these past 15+ months.
While drive-by birthdays and Zoom get-togethers were nice… there really is nothing like physically being together with family and friends. Here’s to the next time we get to do this.