For the last six months, my husband and I have been taking a walk around our neighborhood just after dusk. We don’t meet many people at that time of evening, and when we do see others, I’ve noticed that there’s a feeling of camaraderie, even among strangers. When we stop to converse, we pay careful attention, because most of us are wearing masks, and it’s impossible to catch facial expressions. Everyone is making a real effort to be friendly and gracious.
For the last six months, my husband and I have learned to treasure the hours of connection with our children and grandchildren. We sit outside and talk. We missed our planned summer activities this year, and there’s no way to predict when we can resume fun Shabbat meals and impromptu trips to stores, museums and parks. We’ve come to value the simple pleasure of being together without the pull of distractions. I believe our nuclear family members have gotten to know one another better because of that.
For the last six months, we’ve reached out to people, near and far who matter to us, but with whom we rarely connect. We’ve been talking to old and new friends with more honesty and intention. We treasure so many relationships, and we try to make sure these people know how we feel. It’s been reciprocal. We are strengthened to learn how much we and our friends care about one another.
For the last six months, we’ve been going through books, letters, clothing and furniture. The unearthing of priceless photographs and the purging of useless possessions have been acts of discovery and cleansing, causing delight and joy as well as pain and regret. Our siblings and other relatives are doing the same thing, and we’ve been reliving and remembering, as we send photo and letter attachments back and forth. A cousin organized a big Zoom family gathering in which we asked a lot of questions and shared information about our family. We’re now joined in a family wide history-sociology journey.
The above are four of our unexpected family experiences over the challenging past half-year. During this time, I’ve gained clarity about priorities and learned a lot about myself, my family, my friends and my community. I hope I can hold onto these simple lessons: be gracious; spend time with loved ones and friends without distractions; express emotions honestly; and treasure family lore. Eventually we’ll all be able to safely jump back into favorite activities, and that will be the big test, when I try to remember, reinforce and use what’s been revealed to me.
Chana Shapiro is a regular columnist and contributor for the Atlanta Jewish Times.