Browsing Reflections on the last year

by Kristi Neumayer Jenkins, Director of Adult Faith Enrichment

I know many people don’t feel the same, but I loved the three weeks my family spent in covid 'lockdown.'  It had challenges to be sure:  finding different spaces for four people to be online at the same time; helping a kindergartener learn how to do online class; not having personal space or time; friends being furloughed; not knowing when we’d see out of town family again; the underlying anxiety of what was happening in the world (a huge reoccurring theme).

But we had positives too.  With both my husband and I working from home, we had more time to spend with our boys and my mom.  At lunch, we grabbed a bite and then headed outside to kick a ball around.  Dinner was earlier, which gave us time for card games and a walk after dinner.  Without multiple invitations to birthdays or soccer or holiday events, we felt less pressure and had more time.  There was a sense of solidarity with the world, as everyone we called or video-chatted with was housebound.  And I loved seeing the amazing landscape photos of major cities with no smog!

I attempted to make “the lockdown” more bearable for all of us with crazy ideas, like a two hour road trip to a dairy farm for fresh cream and milk.  The boys forgot we used it to make homemade ice cream and just remember seeing the cows poop (seriously).  They never really got into the new garden we planted, but discovering mushrooms and watering the world’s smallest pepper kept me sane.  Neighbors (and our pest guy!) dropped off seedling gifts.  When I needed a break, I’d head out to talk to the cowpeas. 

Our spiritual lives got a shot in the arm too.  We rekindled family prayer at bedtime.  We streamed Christian concerts. We enjoyed “visiting” other churches:  my alma mater’s small chapel, a Chinese bishop in an Australian monastery, an Irish Shrine to Our Lady.  Our 12 year old chose a NJ priest because he talked about his dog and Star Wars in the homily.  Our 6 year old chose St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, because he liked the ‘castle’ and all the candles.  Yet as much as we enjoyed other Masses, it didn’t take long for us to miss our own parish home.

I sense this with others I’ve talked with who are still watching the live or recorded Mass.  Since we have two people with underlying issues at the house, we’ve been more cautious than others as things reopen.  This gives me a small solidarity with others who are technically vulnerable.  I didn’t realize how many people I knew with medical issues— not that I should know! But for me it really illustrated the quote:  “Be kind. Everyone is facing a battle you know nothing about.”   The people I’ve talked with are genuinely hungering for the Eucharist, for gathering together in person to pray or learn.  They seem appreciative to talk to someone who understands.  I’m grateful for the way they model their trust in God, and am inspired by their commitment to prayer and learning (online and off!).

And that’s the heart of it, isn’t it?  The “full stop” of the pandemic initially gave us a forced Sabbath, a rest from almost everything except the opportunity to trust God with our anxiety and fear.  Those three weeks of being open are long gone, as our employers called us back to working in the office, school re-opened, and people figured out their various comfort levels with activities.  Four times, either my husband or I have been exposed, and each instance of testing and quarantining has been extremely stressful.  Various relatives have caught covid, and my father in law landed in the hospital for a few weeks.  This was the first family emergency we didn’t travel to PA for, and to say it was hard is an understatement.  So as we move into post-covid busy-ness, I am trying to follow Padre Pio’s advice: “Pray. Hope. Don’t worry.” That’s advice I can practice no matter what is happening.  I’ll keep the garden, too!