Traffic is picking up and the stores seem busier than they have been in a long time. Friends and family are talking about vacations, long-delayed visits and other happy activities. We’re seeing more people attend in-person Mass.
Yes, the world is opening up, a very good thing! But we are not re-entering, going “back,” to life “as it was.” Rather, we move ahead, and as we do, we bring experience of the past many months and the effects of what we have been through. By the very fact that each of us has lived through a long pandemic, the time ahead will be a “new” normal.
Physical effects might be the first indications that we are in a new “place.” Besides taking our masks off and seeing one another face to face for the first time in ages, some of us might have gained weight, cavities or less stamina from lack of consistent exercise. We’ve focused so much on COVID-19 that other health considerations have been neglected.
So, part of re-engaging with the world might very well include accommodating back-to-health gym, doctor and dentist visits so we can face the residual from months of stay-at-home with strength and determination!
Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are not uncommon effects of long-term crisis. For many, the pandemic exacerbated or fostered these challenges that can benefit from attention from professionals as well as all of us who will be moving about in the reopened world.
In the days ahead, treating one another with extra compassion, care and courtesy will be important, as will being patient and ready to encourage and support those who need counseling or other medical assistance.
During the pandemic, the Holy Spirit was not idle! For many, isolation from in-person parish life meant rediscovery or deepening of personal prayer, fresh ways to engage with others in virtual fellowship, expanded faith formation through online resources and personal time spent with Scripture and other sacred reading and reflection.
As we return to parish life, it will be very important to not expect that the “old” programs, volunteer opportunities and parish resources will feed the post-pandemic flock.
Some of the faithful might have tremendous suggestions about what might be brought into parish life from their time away, and we would do well to spend time listening to these lessons gained so we can understand where our faith family members have been and are, as well as where we might go, together.
One more, obvious or perhaps not obvious consideration: The calendar did not remain fixed on February 2020. The reality of years is another part of our new normal and might come as a bit of a jolt to some.
The toddler we knew a year-and-a-half ago might not be so toddling now, and the teenager might be nearing college graduation! Family members who were engaged in work might have reached an age where retirement is a possibility (or reality).
And we, too, realize we are nearly two whole years older, time has passed “anyway,” and what we thought we would be doing or wanted to do in the future has shifted or changed entirely.
Adjusting to these realizations and how we interact with others experiencing similar changes and shifts in life will be one of the greatest challenges, I think, as the world reopens. But these aspects of the “new normal” are also filled with promise, possibility, untold opportunity.
As we discover the newness in the new normal and reconnect with loved ones, new friends far and near, and in-person church, oh, the surprises, blessings and inspiration there will be, too!
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