One day in early February when I was out for a walk, I glanced at the flower bed in front of the Rock House and saw some new tulips starting to come up, those tiny bright green symbols of life that come every year to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The sight of those flowers made me stop abruptly. Flowers? In February? Isn’t it too early for flowers? Certainly we are going to have a cold spell and maybe even some snow in the next few weeks. Could those flowers even survive?
Then it hit us. Inches and inches of snow fell over the course of a couple of days. It was a beautiful. Our intern community went outside and built snowmen, made snow angels, built forts, and went sledding. Typical February activities. After that came the freezing rain which left a blanket of ice all over my car, in some places even a few inches thick. (I must admit, I didn’t enjoy that part as much.) And in the midst of that winter wonderland, I forgot all about those little flowers I had just seen the week before.
Throughout those weeks of snow and cold, I still walked outside daily. I love the cold weather. I enjoyed the extra cardio needed to navigate through the snow. And I was perfectly warm and toasty in my water resistant hiking shoes and my warm coat. But, as always happens, the snow does melt eventually. And as I passed that same flower bed one day, I had to stop abruptly yet again. Not only were the flowers still there, they were taller and the buds were forming. Underneath maybe a foot of snow, those little guys just kept growing.
It made me think. Last year in March the pandemic was just beginning. We were beginning a time of suffering and death during an environmental season of rebirth. It was a little confusing, to tell you the truth. The situation continued to deteriorate for the rest of 2020. The number of lives we’ve lost as a global community is staggering. The lingering health problems that some survivors still have to live with is unsettling. But this year is different. During this environmental season of rebirth, we have some hope. The numbers of new cases are down in the US. The number of deaths as well. And vaccines are very slowly becoming available, at least in the wealthier countries anyway. But that’s another blog post…
So, what’s next? What are we going to look like when the snowy pandemic blanket melts and we are able to finally be around people again without having to worry about overcrowding the hospitals and overworking our healthcare professionals. Have we grown over this past year? Have we learned anything new? Have we come to appreciate the importance of being in relationship with others and of our interconnectedness with the entire rest of the world?
I am an introvert, and I live in a community of four people. I would hazard to guess that my experience of the pandemic was not as lonely as that of others. And as a white middle class woman, I have had the benefit of being able to stay at home a lot and see people mainly through Zoom calls. And yet, I still feel cheated. I long for that human connection that I lacked over the last year. I miss hugging people, shaking hands, sharing a table at restaurants, and talking to people in grocery stores. I miss seeing people face to face, hearing their stories, and seeing their smiles. When the pandemic melts, and it is safe again to do so, I cannot wait to see people again. And the funny thing is, as much as I want to see my friends and family, I am also eager to talk to strangers as well. I want to hear the stories of the waiters and waitresses when I go out to eat again. I want to introduce myself to the people I’ve been walking past for months, as we individually explored the grounds of the JSC. I want to discern how I am being called to give of my life to the people of this global community.
Under the blanket of the pandemic, I believe that my desire to be in relationship with people was nurtured by God’s motherly love, and has grown considerably. My hope is that this desire that continued to develop within me over this last year will overpower my inclination to be shy and timid. My prayer is that my awareness of what it is like to be physically distant during a pandemic will never go away, so that I can appreciate and purposely facilitate that much needed encounter with my brothers and sisters as we move forward.
How about you? How have you grown? What desires has God enlivened in you over the past year? What are you being called to do?