There have been so many heart-breaking stories over the past 18 months. Thousands of our elders in long-term care died of the virus, while countless others had to stay in their rooms alone for weeks on end. People in hospital for all sorts of reasons were without the comfort of family visits. Entire sectors of the economy shut down overnight, throwing many people of all ages into unemployment. Students, teachers and parents experienced high stress levels as classes moved online for long stretches. We couldn’t hug our loved ones. Funerals were put on hold for months or indefinitely. You can probably add to the list.
And yet, in the midst of the isolation, the fear, the disbelief at all that has unfolded since March 2020, we find moments where grace pierces the darkness, bringing hope, light, even joy. Let’s remember those moments, too. They can give us the courage to keep going.
Perhaps a child arrived in your family or circle of friends. Or someone you love got married or found a job or let go of a habit that was not life-giving. Maybe you learned a new skill (hands up, bread bakers!) or figured out how to host a Zoom gathering. If your faith was feeling a bit lukewarm, did the forced break from church reignite the flame and lead you to see how much your faith community means to you after all? Did losing so many familiar routines and activities help you realize what is most important to you for your life going forward?
You could say that a shock like COVID-19 – the speed of its spread around the globe, the sudden and drastic measures needed to contain the virus, and the duration of this health, economic and social crisis – is an opportunity to practise gratitude. When life under COVID is overwhelming, focusing on what we have and are grateful for is a path forward. Being thankful for our abilities, our circle of family or neighbours, our resilience, and so much more brightens our mood and opens us to the needs of others. Sharing our resources – time, money, expertise – with those who need some support is one way to invite others to be part of our grace-filled moments, turning gratitude into caring. Accepting help from others brings grace and gratitude, too.
The pandemic has tested the human family in so many ways. It will shape our world for generations to come. One of its gifts could be the reminder that there is always grace to be found in dark times, if we are open to seeing it. St. Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Even during a pandemic.
Anne Louise Mahoney is Managing Editor of Novalis. She is the editor of Looking to the Laity: Reflections on Where the Church Can Go from Here and the author of I Hope, a book for young children.