WHAT THIS PANDEMIC TAUGHT ME, OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE ZOOM

I’m writing this from the privacy of my daughter’s former bedroom. It has pink walls. There is a long-forgotten teddy bear on the bed. It shares the space with the bits and bobs of office stuff: old catalogues, brochures, copies of books, files, cats.

Yes, cats. I have office cats, Franny and Zoey; We named them after the J.D. Salinger book. I know, it’s supposed to be Zooey, but ours are both females so we had to make allowances.

This has been my workplace so long I can hardly remember what it was like before the Covid-19 pandemic. Actually, it has been 13 weeks. But who’s counting, eh?

I have learned many things over the last few months:

  • How to use Zoom — and like it.
  • How to use Teams — and like it.
  • How to tolerate Skype.
  • How to do all kinds of design things with various apps that I never thought I would ever touch.
  • How to sound knowledgeable about Covid-19, even though I know no more than what I read in the news.
  • An entirely new vocabulary of medical terms, not to mention office protocols, sanitary processes, heck, even proper lunchroom etiquette during office re-openings.

The process of learning these things has been an emotional roller coaster. I’ve felt aggravation, irritation, anger and fear, but also pride, gratitude, compassion and warmth towards my family, relations, friends and colleagues. I’ve learned things about myself: that I have more patience than I thought possible, that I need human interaction badly, that I can learn new tricks.

The confinement has also acted as a magnifying glass, forcing us to focus on long-festering social problems. With the disappearance of sports spectacles and mass entertainment, and with even Nextflix getting boring, the news has become practically our only window on the world. And right now, setting aside covid-19, we are seeing more clearly than ever the corrosive and long-lasting power of racism.

From the Black Lives Matter protests, I’ve learned that other people need to hear from me, and to pay attention to what they have to say. People are anxious, worried, fearful, and bruised by the stress caused by uncertainty. They are angered by the raging injustice of racism, poverty and prejudice against difference. I’ve learned that indifference is not an option.

Among the potential good that could arise out of events this spring, especially the global demonstrations against racism, we can hope and pray that our actions to tackle the insidious impact of racism will bear much fruit.

This much I have learned.

In this context, we need God more than ever. And not just in a personal prayer sort of way. We need to be with God WITH others, to be fed spiritually and reminded of the centrality of Christ’s commandment that we love one another.

While I have missed the weekly Eucharist, there have been other consolations. I have realized in a more tangible way that my faith life is my responsibility. So is my faith community, not to mention the global community around me. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not meant to exist in a vacuum. It is meant for sharing.

Slowly, so very hesitantly, we are starting to reopen our society. Our churches are getting a thorough cleaning and we are preparing to return to Sunday Mass. Our workplaces are being repopulated, complete with physical distancing, hand-cleaners and lots of sanitary wipes. Our society is struggling with how to be a better place for all, not just for some.

We know it will be very different. But if we have learned anything at all, it is that we need to be gentle with each other, to look out for each other. And trust that God will be there with us.

Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director, Novalis

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