Congratulations on surviving the coronavirus pandemic. In many ways you are like a graduating class in high school. You’ve proved yourselves. You’ve passed the test. You’ve made the grade. Yes, you have every right to feel a sense of accomplishment.
In this season of graduations and celebrations, allow me to offer you some “give and take” as you commence with getting on with your lives. Here are six suggestions to consider:
■ Give thanks to God for surviving this crisis. Acknowledge God’s provision. There is nothing quite like a crisis to bring us to our knees. Pandemics remind us we are not in control of our own destinies. If ever there was a time to express gratitude to the Creator for the privilege of being alive, it’s now. In your own way, according to your own tradition, verbalize your dependence on your Creator and be grateful to the One from whom all blessings flow.
■ Give your loved ones a hug. Your family and friends have helped you maintain your focus. They encouraged you when you felt down and wondered if you could go on. While sheltering in place, those you love (who love you) gave you a reason to honor the rules that kept us distanced from one another. In addition, they found creative ways of communicating and keeping in touch even when actual touch was not possible.
■ Give normal a chance to catch up with us. I can’t predict when returning to what we once called our normal lives will take place. But it’s likely to be awhile (if it ever will). If ever there was a time to be patient, it is now.
Several years ago a friend of mine was planning a trip to Illinois. He knew my wife and I had raised our family in Chicagoland. Ken called me to ask how long it would take from Chicago to get to Normal (where Illinois State University is located). While I could confidently tell my friend it would take about 2 1/2 hours to get to Normal by car, I can’t predict when we will arrive at normal or by what means.
■ Take off your masks and take a breath. I mean take a really deep breath. The face coverings we’ve worn for more than a year not only hid our faces, they altered our breathing patterns. We longed to be in the safety of our own space where we could unmask and breathe. What was necessary was nonetheless a nuisance.
But it’s a new day. Try breathing purposely when you wake up each morning. As you inhale remind yourself that God’s Spirit (the Creator’s breath) is what keeps you alive. As you exhale, surrender to God your worries and your fears. Breathe in your hopes for the day. Breathe out your doubts.
■ Take a break. Although we have been on an involuntary break from familiar and cherished routines for more than a year, we all need a break from COVID. Even before we arrive at normal, we’d do well to plan excursions that allow for much needed rest stops.
In the midst of this unwelcomed detour on life’s journey called COVID, take a car trip. Take in a movie at a local theater. Go on a weekend hike. Pack a picnic and head to the beach. Visit elderly friends in a nursing home who’ve been relationally starved.
■ Take time to reflect. Even though graduation ceremonies typically mean no more exams, I’d like to challenge you to take this one final quiz as you commence to embrace the future that awaits. Don’t worry. Your answers won’t be graded. But they will definitely impact your future both short-term and long-term.
What life lessons have you learned over the past sixteen months?
How are you a different person because of COVID?
In what ways is your life actually better because of COVID?
What have you begun doing during the pandemic that you desire to continue?
Who helped you the most during the lockdown?
How can you best expression your appreciation to them?
In light of COVID, what and/or whom mean more to you than they used to?
Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.