We were running food to a friend who just had her fifth baby — I’d made an extra pan of enchiladas the night before — and dropping it off with a gift, a cute plaid outfit, when Rose (almost 4) piped up from the back seat: “Let’s go somewhere and do something.”
My husband and I laughed, and then realized: Oh wait. We can go somewhere and do something. So we ran to our favorite Italian restaurant, got pizza and pasta for dinner, and then popped over to a local ice cream place for dessert.
The next morning, as we were getting ready for school, Rose said with a delighted sigh, “I just love going places and doing things together.”
It’s amazing that something as simple as going to a restaurant with your family is something we’re remarkably grateful for now, considering how a year ago those places were closed and we couldn’t see the people we loved.
If the past year and a half has taught me anything, it’s to not take those little things for granted.
Whether it’s the chance to bring a meal to a friend, drop my daughter off at school, attend noon Mass or run to get a quick bite on a Wednesday — all the “normal” things we once did without thinking, that we stopped doing to stay safe — we are slowly them doing again.
But we’re doing those “normal” things differently. We are pondering the joy of something as mundane as eating out.
We are rejoicing in the chance to worship with others, returning to Mass with the same excitement we had as 7-year-olds when we received the Eucharist for the first time. We’re planning summer vacations and visits with family, thrilled by the opportunity to make new memories in places once very familiar.
Far too many have been the think pieces on “what the pandemic taught us,” but there’s something to this reality: A year and a half in isolation has forced us to take stock of what matters and what doesn’t.
Worshipping in person with my parish community, sitting in the pews surrounded by people who smile at my kids, give hugs in the parking lot and raise their voices in prayer is essential.
Running the roads, working myself ragged, being gone every weekend for event after event is not as essential.
In all the terribleness of the “COVID-19 year,” and for all the immense suffering felt by so many who endured the loss of loved ones and the pain of illness, a lesson has been learned.
And while I certainly wish I could’ve learned this lesson without the circumstances of a pandemic that closed the world and saw the death of millions, I also can believe confidently in the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas: that God permits an evil only from which a greater good can be drawn.
If the greater good has been an increase in gratitude for the small, ordinary things of this life, then I will rejoice in that “new normal” my family has found.
If the greater good has been an increase in appreciation for the Mass, then I will embrace this renewed love of the Eucharist.
If the greater good has been an increase in my desire to see, know and love my neighbor with the eyes and heart of Jesus, then I will walk confidently in those relationships I hope to grow.
There is no way to soften the blow of a year and a half of suffering, loss, illness and a world holding its breath. There is no way to say, “Well, it had to happen,” without completely disregarding the pain so many have felt.
But there is a way to recognize the grace that God can always draw forth in times of turmoil and struggle, and to revel in the gifts given, even when it seems that all is lost.
As we return to going places and doing things, may we embrace the grace poured out in even those simplest of moments and be grateful for it all.
Katie Prejean McGrady is an international Catholic speaker and author.
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