While Our Lives Are Paused, Discover Gratitude

There’s no doubt that coronavirus is deadly. We watch its body count rise daily with no certainty where it will stop. But as dangerous as that virus is to our bodies, doom and gloom is even more dangerous to our souls. And while most of us will avoid the least desirable outcome of coronavirus, our efforts to protect our bodies threaten to make none of us immune to doom and gloom.

It’s easy to get down. Even those of us who haven’t become sick can get mired in all that we’ve lost. Retirement funds. Jobs. Vacations. Baseball. That bar with the self-serve taps.

At some point – if it hasn’t already – the novelty of self-isolation and hours of Netflix will wear off. Humans are social creatures, and despite how we feel on rainy, cold mornings, we do better when we’re out in the world rather than holed up in our homes. We’re not moles.

How long do we have to keep this up? I’m not sure anyone knows, and those who might know are too wise to say.

When facing a worldwide pandemic, necessary isolation of an unknown duration, and loss of so many small things that bring us joy, what are we to do?

There’s only one thing to do: practice gratitude.

The current pandemic is scary. Even as we live through it, I find it hard to believe what we’re being asked to do. Kids can’t go to school? No concerts? Stay inside your house so you don’t catch a deadly disease or spread it to others?

This doesn’t even seem like real life.

But for today, this is real life. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And probably quite a few days after that.

Not all of us will make it through, but most of us will. Those of us who are healthy, relatively young, and have decent insurance have a better chance. One day life will return to normal for us.

And it’s that prospect of returning to normal where gratitude comes in.

What we’re experiencing now is an interlude. It’s that space between the life we were living and the life we’ll live in the future. And during this interlude we can mope, and worry, and fill ourselves with dread, and generally freak out, or we can use this break as a chance to take stock of our lives.

This pandemic is providing a chance for all of us to put things on hold. To do without. In America we’re being forced to do something that Americans hate to do: sacrifice.

But from that sacrifice may grow gratitude.

Life is so daily. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges, struggles, and monotony of life, and forget the many things for which we should be grateful. But now that so many of those things have been taken from us, perhaps we’ll appreciate them more when they return.

Having dinner at your favorite pizza place. Watching your daughter play soccer. Helping your son with his math homework. Buying toilet paper. A cold beer, a hot dog, and organ music at Wrigley Field. Riding public transportation. Field trips.

Some of those things are fun. Some are a chore. But now that we can’t do any of them, maybe we’ll realize that they’re the real stuff in life, and to simply let them pass by without gratitude is letting our lives pass by. And if we can’t experience gratitude for the small things in our life, then how will we ever know what the large things are?

Thousands of people have died, and thousands more will die. Many of us will get sick, and almost all of us will worry. It’s dreadful.

But it’s also a gift. It’s a forced pause button that gives us the opportunity to reflect on ourselves, our loved ones, our world, and our existence. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to spend a lot of time with those people we love the most. And we’ll also gain an appreciation for many other things that we had to lose in order to discover how important they are to us.

I read an article that said the world will never be the same after this. The writer was talking about health policy, and governmental programs. But if we take this time to think about what we’ve loved and what we’ve lost, then we’ll never be the same either.

And for that, we should be forever grateful.

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