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What it Took a Pandemic To Learn

The Best Lessons are Often Learned in Hard Times

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By:
Lillian Boyd

The level of my naiveté in March 2020 became evident within two months of remote working. I remember hearing whispers of the WHO getting ready to declare COVID a pandemic, but I was unaware of what that really meant. After all, I had lived through SARS and the Swine Flu with very little disruption to my personal life. And while at the time I thought it was drastic, I believed the government’s provincial shutdown was going to be short lived. How we look back and shake our heads!

 

As I walked out of the church office with a box of files, I thought that working from home was going to be the best thing! I could stay in sweats and get a lot of work done with all the uninterrupted time I would have. And while work was very stressful in the first two weeks, I was built to manage a crisis and I enjoyed the challenge. In my home office, I was running on adrenaline.

 

But then two weeks turned into a month and the disillusionment of my “done by summer” mentality was quickly growing. I hit a wall. I became sluggish with the never ending Groundhog Day except I wasn’t spending it with Bill Murray or Andie MacDowell. And the taxing weight of managing the unknown and unmet expectations, continued to weigh on my shoulders.

 

Hard times are often when we grow the most. Here are the four things that I’m carrying with me after surviving the COVID pandemic.

 

The Need for a Purpose
My work is meaningful; I believe in the mission of the church and that while it is challenging, it is worthy work. As a Christian, it would be very easy to justify working overtime in my formal role at the church. After all, my faith isn’t limited to 40 hours a week, it’s my life, so why not work an extra 10-15 hours a week? Work is just that, work! It’s hard, it’s good, and it may be important but we all need a break and purpose outside of our job.

 

For me, this came in the form of a weekly Bible study I was leading with a group of young adults. We had just started in September 2019 and when COVID started, I wasn’t sure how they would respond. But they buckled down and engaged every week via Zoom. Which meant I needed to spend time in my own study and preparation to make it the best possible experience while we were online. I had a purpose that I believed was good and necessary, and worth the energy. It broke up the monotony of the weeks as I was learning new things.

 

Built for In-Person Relationships
I have always said that I am an introvert. I have a limited amount of “people” energy that once spent, requires me to go into my shell to recharge. Because of this, I thought I would love working from home. And for the first little bit, I did. What surprised me was that regardless of all the Zoom meetings and phone calls, I began to miss being physically with people. Digital communication tools are great and help many people stay connected. But they don’t replace the value of in-person relationships.

 

I am more convinced than ever that being face to face with people on a regular basis is not only healthy but necessary for our collective good. Communication is not just verbal or written. It includes body language. Physical touch like a hug goes a long way to express love, comfort, concern or value. And so I made an effort to go on walking meetings with staff and catch-up walks with friends at least 2-3 times a week. And my Bible study group met outside as long as we possibly could (until it got too cold). Those moments not only gave us a sense of normalcy, but filled a deeply seeded need in each of us.

 

Toilet paper. I was willing to ensure my comfort above the dignity of others. My shopping put others in a place to ask neighbours for toilet paper. I have no excuse.

The Lesson in Toilet Paper
During the first lockdown, I remember driving down Main Street in Stouffville in the middle of a weekday and was shocked with the lack of traffic. Those were the days of pot banging, blue ribbons, and a sense of working together for the common good. The second lockdown saw protests, a growing divergence of views and positions, and an inner struggle between an individual’s choice and the responsibility we have to the community in which we live.

 

What role do the rights of the individual play when considering the needs of the whole? I continue to wrestle with this as I think the answer is highly contextualized.

 

But what I did see within myself, is how naturally self-centered I am. I got upset with the inconvenience in my life, or how guidelines were impacting my workload. I was put out by having two trips cancelled and needing to wait to get into Walmart. I bought more toilet paper than I needed.

 

Toilet paper. I was willing to ensure my comfort above the dignity of others. My shopping put others in a place to ask neighbours for toilet paper. I have no excuse.

 

I Don’t Disagree Well
I have an opinion…about everything. And this can get me into trouble as I usually believe I’m right. I trust my thinking, judgement, and reasoning. But I also am a sucker for confirmation bias and groupthink. I’d like that as I chalk up more birthdays, I am also increasing in wisdom, but sadly, that’s not guaranteed. Knowing this about myself, I’m not surprised that I had opinions about the lockdowns, masks, vaccines, and vaccine passports. What shocked me was how strongly I felt about my position, and the equally strong emotions I felt towards others who landed in a different place.

 

There were a few moments where I was taken aback by my own sense of self righteousness and the judgement, impatience, and even anger I was directing towards people who disagreed with me. Rather than taking the time to understand someone else’s position and the reason behind that, I had already come to the conclusion that if they disagreed, they were wrong. Period.

 

This was one of the biggest things that God had to work on in my heart over the last 19 months. How do I hold to my convictions, seek to understand the convictions of others, and show love all at the same time within such an important moment in history?

 

It began with properly placing my views in the context of everything else I hold to be true or valued. And that quickly put them lower on the list of importance. It is more important to maintain relationships. It is more important to show care and love to others. It is more important to put others first.

 

And it ended with understanding that I was, more often than not, at fault in my quick, from the hip reactions towards people. Yes, opinions matter. But people matter more. What’s the point of being right in a wrong way?

 

As I write this, we are four months from potentially the end of capacity limits, mask mandates, and proof of vaccination in Ontario. I am cautiously optimistic that we are reaching the end. Regardless of what the future may or may not hold, it would be unwise to forget the lessons of the last 19 months. Don’t let the gift of time and the growth that comes with it, be wasted.

Meet the author

Lillian Boyd
Lillian grew up attending Springvale and now is on staff. The eldest of five pretty cool adults and aunt to four munchkins, if she is not busy reading or prepping for a Bible study, she loves to play soccer, hang out with friends and listen to podcasts on long walks.

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