Reach higher despite COVID-19 adversity

To celebrate my 50th birthday this year, I’m going to Africa on a two-week trip with the Maryknoll Missionaries.

When I signed up for the trip in January, my answer to the question – “Please tell us why you are interested in this immersion experience?” – was simple. My response was: “I will be turning 50 in 2020 and I believe this trip will help me grow closer to God.”

Other plans this year include buying a small brick home close to a marina. I want be able to sail on a whim. I haven’t thought of a name for the boat, or even bought one. But I plan on it.

Let’s see what else I plan to do…oh wait, there’s breaking news. The entire world has been shut down due to the deadly coronavirus. Are you kidding me? All of those amazing plans I made to commemorate a half century of my life have to be put on hold? I’m stuck in Cleveland, Ohio where it’s snowing in the middle of April?

Yes, that is the current situation which is easy to handle compared to what other people in the world are enduring. Despair is everywhere in the form of death, illness, job loss and hunger. Graduations, weddings, funerals, trips and birthdays have been cancelled. Many of us are quarantined while first responders, healthcare workers, grocery store employees, trucker drives and more risk their lives to keep the country afloat.

What impact will this have on us, our children, our elderly, people around the world and people yet to be born? What changes have to be made? What new precautions must we take? Will life ever be the same?

Let’s hope not. Who wants to live in a world overwhelmed with greed, hate, sadness and narcissism? Not me. That’s not how I grew up. I grew up in the 70’s when life was simple. People looked strangers in the eye, smiled and said hi. Families sat down to eat dinner together. Bottled water didn’t exist. An ice cream cone at McDonald’s was 20 cents. The world was black and white – right or wrong. There was no ambiguity unlike the world today where everything is grey.

I was tired of living that way. As bad as this situation is now, I believe the change will make us better. The pause has slowed us down in a good way. Suddenly, you can’t visit your loved one in the nursing home while before it was a chore. Instead of hugging someone you love, you stay six feet away. You have to be cautious if you take a walk, you can’t go to church, baseball games or school. These are things you can’t do, but think of all the things you can do.

You can move forward and appreciate the gifts in life which have no price tag. Those gifts have been in front of us all along, but we were too busy rushing through our lives to notice the smiles, hugs and acts of kindness we took for granted. What we need is one another. In this time of chaos, who are those have stood closest to you when you needed them most? Those are the people who love you. You have to cherish those people and embrace the gifts this pause has given us.

Do not waste this gift of time that was given to you. Make new plans. Dream new dreams. Embrace the situation and move on. This moment, this breath is all you have. To survive in this time of turmoil, you have to reach higher.

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