It’s strange to look around and, with a quick glance, see nothing visible that would indicate anything was different from any other year. The days grow longer, and the snow melts, and spring draws near. In many ways, for many people in my little corner of the world, nothing has changed.
And yet everything has changed. It’s the jarring feeling that hits me as I drive through the countryside. The houses are still there; the fields are still plowed; the cows still crowd their barns. But it’s different, too. We are different. Regardless of how consciously the events of the past year affected you – whether they brought you to your knees or seemed to pass you by – they were there. They have changed us in ways we haven’t even begun to explore.
Brave New World
I recently saw some coworkers for the first time since the pandemic began. I’ve been working from home for almost a year – a blessing and a curse. The strangeness of physically standing before someone, of seeing them as more than a head and shoulders on a virtual call, was something I still can’t quite shake. It sounds absurd, but it was almost easy to forget that the people I have come to know only as faces on a screen are still real, solid, flesh and bone.
I wonder if that is partially why it seems like the world is so much more unkind these days. If we only know other people as faces or names on a screen – as if they aren’t real people, hearts beating just like me – how much easier is it to ignore, to cast aside, to hurt? It’s much harder to say or do those things when a human being is standing in front of me. It’s easy to forget about other people’s needs when I’ve been alone with my own for days, weeks, months. Perhaps quarantining and social distancing – while so necessary – can ironically breed a kind of selfishness if we aren’t careful.
The flip side is, people need other people more than ever right now. People go hungry. People fight sickness and addiction. People suffer from loneliness. People long for meaning and purpose.
Finding Purpose in Service
One way to pull yourself out of the grey dullness that is spending months at a time at home is to find ways to connect with other people. If the thought of another Zoom call makes you want to cut your internet cable, know that physical ways of helping people can still be done – even if we can’t see each other face-to-face. People weren’t made to be alone. Shifting your thoughts and focus to another can make a dramatic impact on your own well-being, not to mention that of the other person.
It doesn’t need to be big to be powerful. Sometimes I am paralyzed by the thought that my help doesn’t matter, that it isn’t big enough, and so I do nothing at all. But that’s not true. Every little thing matters. Because together, when we all do them, they add up. Big moments, large gestures of aid and service, are appreciated. But we need these little moments just as much. We need to realize that together, they are not only meaningful, they are critical to re-creating the sense of community that we have lost in so many ways in the past year.
There is something deep and powerful, even humbling, in the knowledge that my sacrifices of time or effort, however small, are helping to build the kind of world we want to live in. This spring, with so much ahead of us, is about so much more than just another season. It’s about the opportunity to do the sometimes hard work to bring ourselves back together and create a society in which every person is valued and loved.
About the writer: Jessica is a long-time PGK volunteer and writer specializing in marketing and content strategy.