I have been a student for most of my life and learned many facts in some great institutions from some tremendous professors. But by far, my greatest teachable moments have been learned through life itself.
An anonymous author said, “necessity is the mother of invention.” In other words, when life changes, we do what it takes to get the job done. Some of the best lessons are learned in times of our greatest struggles.
During these recent, difficult times, we’ve faced great challenges, but we’ve overcome. We readjusted and made it happen. As individuals and as a society, we are innovative and will do what it takes to make it through. During the last several months, we have all learned some important lessons. Here are a few things that I have learned.
Life can change in an instant
When we first learned about the coronavirus we were intrigued. We all followed the story and found it interesting and a little unsettling. This new information was way out of our comfort zone. We didn’t know what to do with it or where to file it. We didn’t have a file marked, “pandemic.” One thing we did know is that we needed more toilet paper.
In an instant, our lives were changed. Everything was different. We enlarged our vocabulary to include words and phrases like COVID, pandemic, social distancing, Zoom, and essential services.
Life changed very fast and we had to adjust. People were told to stay home as much as possible.
Because of that, many people worked from home. Schools had to teach using an online venue. Parents needed to adjust schedules. Everything changed in an instant. We are still adjusting to a “new normal” and wondering when things will get back to the “old normal.”
People can be kind
Like you, I got so tired of being bombarded by all the negative and frightening news on television and social media. It was all anybody was talking about—and rightly so. It was a frightening time. I remember early on, going to the store and seeing empty shelves and wondering, “what is happening?”
“Sir, you’re only allowed two packs per family,” the grocery worker said kindly, but firmly to the man pushing the cart by me.” His cart was full of toilet paper. “It’s not all for me,” he frowned, “Some of it’s for my mother and she does not live with us.” “You’re allowed just two packs per family,” the worker said again. I moved on. Rationale went out the window. People were panicked and fuses were short.
But, in the midst of all this, we saw a glimmer of hope. There was beauty from the ashes. From time to time, we got a glimpse of love and respect. We saw hope for humanity.
I loved seeing and hearing the stories of people who helped the elderly in the grocery stores, those who donated goods or services to the less fortunate, and many other random acts of kindness.
I loved seeing the Facebook posts pop up where someone would say, “I have a need” and others, often random strangers, would rise to the occasion. I loved seeing the parades through the neighborhood by teachers who wanted to let their students know that they cared deeply about them and that everything would be okay.
It was moments like those that reminded me that, deep down, people do care.
Not all heroes wear a cape
During the epidemic, we began using phrases like “essential” and “non-essential.” Both terms came complete with obligations and possible ramifications.
There were many who served quietly among us. Some of these were our first responders, medical personnel, and those who worked in essential services.
Probably like you, I can think of several people in the medical community who continued to care and to serve putting themselves and their families potentially in harms way. I’m sure, at times, they didn’t want to and second guessed their profession, but they did what needed to be done in a very difficult time. They served professionally and sacrificially. We are grateful for your service.
We’ve gotten used to noise
Remember when things were “normal?” We had sports on TV, drove our kids to practices, games, and recitals, and said “see you later” several times a day? Life was busy and it was noisy.
When the pandemic first hit, everyone was somewhat paralyzed and wondered, “what are we going to ‘do?’” People and families had to readjust. Families were forced to stay indoors and be together. With the TV off, family members were talking, playing games, and enjoying each other’s company. It reminded me that the best gifts in life are free.
“I like to build things,” my six-year-old grandson said who was now learning online. “What would you like to build?” I asked, putting down my book. “I want to build a treehouse or a big hill,” he said.
Trying to steer the conversation into something that was a little more cost-effective, easier, and matched my skill set, I thought about the large cardboard box papa and mama were saving for him. “How about building a robot?,” I said. Using a razor knife, some duct tape, and odds and ends, we went into creative mode and just had fun for a little while.
Before the pandemic, our lives were very busy and very noisy. During this time, many of us have simplified our existence and even learned some new hobbies. In some odd way, I think many people would say, it’s been good to slow down a little.
We were built to connect
As an introvert, by nature, I’ve often joked that I wouldn’t mind working in a room by myself and just having someone slide some coffee and pizza in every once in a while. But, during this time of social distancing, there have been some grey days. I’ve found that I need people.
As a pastor, I’ve missed the opportunity to see many in our congregation face-to-face. I’ve missed seeing them and hearing their stories. I’ve missed the handshakes and hugs and I’m looking forward to seeing one another again.
The future is uncertain
As I write this, meat prices have risen and experts say, we could see higher prices for some time. We all ask questions like, “why is this so?” and “what does this mean?” For me, it’s another reminder that the future, in general, is uncertain. But then again, it has always been this way.
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matt 6:25-26).
Jesus’s point is simple. We have no control over our lives. We can try to manipulate our environment, but in the end, the future is uncertain, and God is ultimately in control. That’s really good news.
One of the things that I had to learn years ago was to hold on to life loosely and trust God in the process. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.