Has Everything Really Changed?
Life is different now than it was last year, or last decade or century, and our present circumstances will not always be like this. Thankfully, change is still something we can count on. While it may be hard to remember life without "social distancing" and the fear of infection, one day, hopefully soon, this hardship will be just a memory.
As this invisible virus cloud hangs in the air, it's tempting to think that everything has changed. Casual greetings to people at the store or on the sidewalk have been replaced with looks of suspicion and distance. "Are you a carrier or do you think I'm one?" Families are not getting together as they used to. Friends are meeting on video platforms instead of meeting at restaurants or in homes or backyards. My wife recently "met" a friend for lunch. They got takeout and parked their cars so they could roll their windows down and chat with other at a safe distance.
The way we do business is different. Thanks to "social distancing" stores are no longer crowded with shoppers. The other day I was met at the door by a cautious employee who asked me to wait outside until one of the current shoppers left. She explained that they were limiting the number of people in the store at one time. Purchases now end with the clerk saying "thank you" followed by disinfecting the keypad I just used for my transaction. I understand. We're all trying to figure out how to stay in business without having to be in the same physical space with our customers or clients. Transportation, education, meetings, and anything that used to involve shared space with other humans has either moved to an online platform or been temporarily halted. And then think of those in the healing professions who now carry their work with compassion for their patients and concern for themselves.
We're trying to figure out how to do "normal" things again. It's almost like re-learning how to walk. I've sat at my desk more than a few times perplexed at what to do next. So much of what I do depends on personal contact that isn't easily replaced by online options.
However, in another sense, many things have not changed at all. Some things in life are constant. For example, I bet you have the same sense of purpose that you had before. Some of the anxiousness you feel may be due in part to your inability to fulfill your purpose as you once did. Think of your desire to serve people, to meet needs, to bring value to your community, to connect people to their own sense of calling and purpose. All of those things, and probably many more, may have been disturbed and delayed but they have not been eliminated. The value of your work hasn't changed either. In fact, it may be more important now than ever. Not only the value of your work but your own personal values are still there. Those are constants in your character that will guide you through this challenge.
Then there are the relationships in your life. Family members, friends, colleagues and co-workers have always mattered. Even casual relationships may feel more significant. Think about the people who provide personal services, the teller at your bank's drive-by, the UPS delivery guy, the person who walks your dog, or any one of a number of people who you see and say "good morning" to each week. Those people matter and they matter to you. That hasn't changed at all, except they may be more meaningful now than ever.
One of the things I love most about my job as a pastor and musician at my church is leading choir rehearsals. For the time being, we're on an extended break, like everyone else, and missing our time together. But I gathered with a group of singers online this week to listen to some music, and just check in to see how everyone is doing. The technology was a little clunky, some people had trouble finding how to unmute their sound and video, lighting wasn't the best, and it was quite unprofessional looking. But I was so glad to "see" them. After a few weeks of "social distancing" there was so much joy at reconnecting with these friends and fellow musicians. I think they felt the same way too.
So, amid all the changes we're facing, don't overlook the things that remain the same, especially the people in your life. We need each other.