"I will pencil you in"

Becky Rogowski, Hays 1st Presbyterian Church
Becky Rogowski

My planner and I have historically been inseparable. As the technology-era has advanced, my planner has not. I have not adapted to an electronic calendar/planner. I continue to be attached to a paper planner. If you see me, my planner likely isn’t far away.

In the past, I have prided myself on being so certain of my plans that I have told friends and family, “I will PEN you into my planner.” I challenged myself to stick with pencil in my planner when 2020 began…I’m not sure why. It ended up being one of the greatest lessons learned as a result of the 2020 Pandemic. My eraser sure got a lot of use.

Mid-March 2020. You know what I’m referring to. I suspect you always will. It started as the cancelling of immediate plans. Spring Break; a spring conference; the NCAA Basketball Tournament; the opening concert to a favorite musician’s tour in Texas with my oldest daughter and some friends; Easter. HOLD ON.

The pandemic was supposed to end in a few weeks? Months? We are almost to mark a year. Has it changed the way we relate to one another? It definitely has! Trips not taken, events not held, restaurant meals not shared with friends/family/strangers, friends not seen, family members’ deaths not “properly” handled/mourned/celebrated. The list goes on an on. 

A year ago, most did not know, or use, Zoom. Virtual meetings were for “some” workers. “Some” people worked from home. “Some” people used grocery delivery and pick-up services. “Some” people relied on restaurant delivery and pick-up. Few wore medical masks in public as a health precaution. Our society is vastly changed in a year. We are vastly changed. “Most” of us have been resilient, creative, adaptive, etc.

Our need to connect with others is strong. We are designed to be social. We need it. We have found ways to stay connected. For me, personally, it has taken different forms in different aspects of my life. 

In my work at the First Presbyterian Church as the Generations in Faith Together coordinator, it changed the very essence of how I needed to do my job. The easy part was increasing my use of technology with our members who use technology. But we have many elderly and “non-tech” users. I needed a new way to keep in touch with them. Many live at assisted living facilities and are now considered “high-risk.” I started to realize we may not be seeing them in person for a while. I have been able to send DVD’s of our worship services and a packet of printed materials on a weekly basis to them. I remind them how much they are missed and that we are available to assist in whatever way we can. I’ve tossed in adult coloring pages on a regular basis to help them pass the time.

Our worship service had to quickly make a move to an online format. We had not ventured into this area prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been told we should go back and watch those early services to see how far we’ve come. Personally, I cannot. I want to believe they were “good enough.” I fear that watching it will show otherwise!

Our meetings were forced to become virtual – and our homes became our offices. We definitely got the opportunity to spend more time with our families. My teenagers became virtual learners. I can’t say that we were “ready” for any of this – but we did it! If there was ever a time for a virtual high-five – it was 2020!

I miss my long-distance friends. I am thankful for email, texting, social media, and Zoom. I’ve had “social hours” with friends and strangers in place of the opening weekend of the music tour. Different yes, but still fun. I am definitely ready to physically see my friends again – to hear their voices in person, to feel their bodies in the embrace of hugs, to see the twinkles in their eyes, to see their laugh lines (without being hidden by masks).

The relationships are unchanged. They are built on unconditional love for one another. The interactions are different. The pandemic has brought us changes, but it has not destroyed us. In many ways, we are doing things better. We were ready for this change. It may not have seemed as if that was the case as it started to unfold, but look how far we’ve come! It’s “only” been a year, my friends!  GO US! Virtual high-five to you!

Becky Rogowski is the Generations in Faith Together Coordinator at Hays First Presbyterian Church.