What I learned during the year of Covid
On March 15 of last year, when we were given the lock-down order in the county in which I lived, I made some plans. I bought a home exercise machine, I gave up all alcohol, tobacco and Netflix. I became entirely Vegan, read two national newspapers every day, wrote to shut-in family every week, learned French and started a sourdough that has survived to this day.
As a result, as we approach the end of this horrible year of confinement and trauma, I am thinner healthier, smarter, better informed, more accomplished, and more loved than ever before in my life.
Just kidding. I didn’t do any of those things. Except maybe the part where I RESOLVED to do them.
Like everyone else I know, I started the lock-down year thinking it would be a matter of weeks. So, I planned services that were never held, wrote sermons that were never given, and read for conferences that were cancelled. As weeks stretched into months, the mounting feelings of futility and disgust with my kitchen cabinets resulted in my turning to social media. I began on Facebook.
I reconnected with friends I had lost track of, I formed and joined groups of people with whom I shared interests and attended Zoom cocktail hours and watch parties.
But very soon that was not enough.
I wrote letters, actual postal letters, to friends who were not online. I ordered cards online and fancy pens and made it my mission to use all the stamps in a book every month by just writing cheerful notes.
And then came the worst. I. Called. My. Stepmother.
I don’t think I have ever done that before without a real and probably urgent reason. And then I called other people. I talked to people while I walked the dog, while I went to the post box, even while I cleaned out those nasty kitchen cabinets. People GAVE me the phone number of OTHER people and I called THEM. And I did this on the regular. Like daily!
And you know what? I loved it. I loved hearing about what high school friends were doing. I loved seeing the dogs of my former college professors. I got to know the names and ages of my friends’ kids and their kids, and I got interested in things I never even knew existed and that I thought were pure crazy-town (freediving – Google it).
But along the way I reconnected with people. I discovered that the people I thought I had trouble talking to, after the first few minutes, were very easy to talk to. I discovered that the things I imagined people thought about me, were just in my head. I learned to be grateful for all the people in my life and all the things they were doing. I learned that I had a lot in common with many people, and those with whom I had nothing in common were the most interesting of all. In short, I was reminded that God made every person on this earth for the sole purpose of being the person that they are. And discovering those people, learning about them, letting them into my thoughts and aspirations, was a particular miracle that I had taken for granted, or forgotten long ago.
We are all made in God’s image. The ancients called it “imago Dei” and it means that there is a thumbprint of God on the heart of every one of us. And when we reach out with good intentions, that little bit of God in other people speaks to us. And our little bit of God speaks to them.
Let me put it to you like this: Imagine everyone in the world had a mirror in their chest. And you have a friend whose mirror shows the image of a lovely candle flame. If you stand a certain way – open and facing your friend – your mirror reflects that light. And if another friend comes and stands facing you, just so, they can pick up and reflect that light. And it goes on and on. One after another, the entirety of humanity is using their mirror to pick up and move on the reflected light of the original candle flame. And the original flame is God’s love. And it’s lighting and uniting us all. That is what I learned about relationships during this year of pandemic. I learned about that light.
So, no, I’m not any thinner than I was a year ago. I’m not a Vegan, I don’t speak French and the thing “starting” in my fridge is absolutely not meant to be eaten. But after a year of all this, I can tell you that those ambitions that I had at the beginning were not the important ones. Yes, keeping your mind and body active is important; yes, using your time faithfully is important. But at the end of the day, at the end of the year in this case, I never lost sight of God because I was never out of sight of someone who could reflect the candlelight to me when I needed it most.
The Rev. Shay Craig is Vicar of St. Andrew’s and St. Michael’s Episcopal Churches in Hays.