Some friends and I laughed about the already apparent shortage of Clorox wipes on Friday, March 13, 2020. We were gathered together to eat Megan’s delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and play Nertz. We knew by that evening that school was shutting down one week at a time to let COVID-19 run its course.
That was our family’s last gathering with people for 11 weeks. Of course, we saw some of our people in porch or parking lot meetings when we turned in schoolwork, picked up library books, picked up groceries, and delivered things to each other. We missed our usual Easter gathering, the fun events that conclude a school year, and three birthday celebrations in our immediate family. I talked on the phone to my best friend while we walked on our separate streets.
We widened our circle on Memorial Day weekend with my extended family and then my best friend and her family. That summer we gradually widened it more. My kids started back to school in August and went almost all of the 2020-21 year – minus the weeks in February we had to shut down, just as our teachers and staff were getting their first COVID vaccines, because we had too many Upper School students testing positive. Mostly the virus made its way through the basketball teams. The summer of 2021 felt more normal, and gradually we’ve weathered variant strands and roller coaster local case numbers.
But life just hasn’t been the same since March 13, 2020.
We got vaccinated as we could in 2021 – me first with the school staff in February and then March, Greg shortly after mine in March thanks to an extra dose where a friend works, Cate in August because that was six months after she had COVID with her teammates, Ben and Rachel in November when the pediatric dose was available. I got my booster dose in November; Greg in December. Cate is getting hers soon. Of course, the medical aspects continued into 2022 when Rachel tested positive for a very mild case of COVID in January.
I could tell you all sorts of things I learned about my people, our family, the beauty of downtime, adjusting perspectives … and on and on. The pandemic ended up prompting us to look at our church life … and change churches. My capacity for a crowded calendar changed, but now I’m having to adjust again. Disappointment comes a little easier for certain people in my household because activities and events are rescheduled quicker than they would have been before. During the past two years, there has been so much information and so many lessons in my mind and heart.
But here’s the biggest thing I’ve learned: Gathering with your people matters.
Of course, I already believed this. I wrote a whole book about it. But here we are two years removed from when our worlds shut down. People reopened their lives when they were ready, but I wish we’d never shut ours down, at least not in the ways we did for those 11 weeks.
I was scared of what people were telling us, especially about how we could be carrying the virus and not know it and infect elderly loved ones. Of course, I’d never want to do that to anyone. Of course, I’m willing to take precautions for the sake of others. Of course, hindsight to 2020 really is 20/20.
But here we are. Two years later.
I know I’ve changed. I know my kids have changed. I know my family has changed as individuals and as a collective group of five. Relationships have changed – some certainly for the better. We attend a church that is exactly where we need to be. We know better now who are people truly are. We know those things because social distancing deepened our desire to gather as a family, as friends, in a church, and at school events.
Right now, gathering together looks different than before March 13, 2020. Some of that is pandemic-induced, but some of it is just our season of life.
We have two kids who play basketball. One of those and another kid play soccer, which is basically when it’s not basketball season. But gathering in the stands to cheer on our kids or with other little kids and moms while we wait for the big kids to finish practice matters too. We’ve become Wednesday night church people because we get to gather with a crew of people who make us laugh and point us to Jesus. We have developed new relationships when we gather in Sunday school class or when we chat in the pick-up line after school.
We gather as we go. We gather as we live out our lives. We gather together because we want to. And I’d have it no other way – especially when I think back to those 11 weeks in 2020.
Now bring on more Nertz games and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Ironically, I did self-publish a book called “Bringing Home More Than Groceries: Stories of Gathering & Nourishing People” in September 2020. Yeah, I don’t know who releases a book about gathering when much of the world is still social distancing. But I did. I don’t regret it, but I do feel led to share about it now that we are far beyond March 13, 2020. So much has changed, and so much has stayed the same.
On my website, you can learn more about my book, find some fun free resources including a printable about how hospitality looks in each season and a playlist, and read endorsements. Of course, you can buy the book at Amazon too.