As this pandemic has continued on, and I continue working from home, I noticed I was restless, like something was missing. I could not place what it was.
One day I finally had to go into the office to get mail, make some copies, pick up packages, etc. and I figured it out. I drive 25 minutes each way, each day to go to work at St. John’s. During my morning drive, I listen to talk radio. That I have not been missing because I listen to podcast replays while working at home. It was during the drive home that I figured it out. Driving home, I typically turn the radio up loud and channel surf for music – sometimes Christian music, sometimes 80’s rock, sometimes country, sometimes all of the above during my 25 minute drive. When I was able to do that again, it felt really good. It is a release, a wind-down from the day. Working at home, day and night blur and I find myself working well into the evening because I do not have that cut-off, that time in the car to put my head somewhere else. It all blends together – the hours of the day, the days of the week. It is a simple thing, a little thing. I now realize the importance of that music and time and its significance in my days. It is such a little thing. Who would have thought it made that much of a difference?
A lot of people are huggers. I bet this is really hard for them. For me, it is that weird, awkward inability to even just place your hand on someone’s shoulder or shake hands. I catch myself wanting to do it, but I must stop myself. I saw the same thing at a wake this week. People were reaching out to shake hands and pulling back. It is a really glaring absence during the sign of peace at Mass. That little nod to your neighbor seems so impersonal and unfriendly. It is the little things.
You take for granted grabbing door handles without thinking. I opened the door for someone at the grocery store the other day. I did that way before COVID-19 so I hope people know it is still about being polite, and I am not afraid of them. These are the things I think about.
I love having windows open and listening to the world outside and it is impossible in this humidity. Again, a little thing, but I believe the little things really matter. It is so much more isolating to be shut away behind closed windows. Just the sounds of “normal” make a difference.
I think we underestimate the importance of the little things. I invite you to think about what they are in your life – the feeling of clean sheets, the smell of fresh cut grass or cookies baking in the oven – which make you feel better. What are the little things at Mass that you have been missing? Seeing the family with toddlers in front of you? Hearing your favorite hymn, the one that sticks in your head all day? Sometimes I stare at the candles along side the tabernacle, knowing those candles are significant. They mean God is in there. For a time during the pandemic, when the churches were locked, Jesus was removed from our tabernacle and the door was open. I saw it was bare and empty. That sight filled me with an internal emptiness and a real sense of loss. This is not a little thing, but it is a small detail, one which could be easily missed. But I saw it, and it hurt my heart.
We hear “don’t sweat the small stuff.” But Kurt Vonnegut also said “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things.” I am going to side with Vonnegut. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is to look around and see the little things. Realize the impact that the little things have on you. That is important to get through this pandemic. Then, once you figure out your “little things,” spend some time thinking about your friends and family. Maybe there is a little thing they are missing. If you figure it out, you could make all the difference in their day.
It is said when you lose one of your senses, your other senses are heightened. Maybe when you are sheltered due to a pandemic, the same thing happens. In the Bible, Jesus felt the pain of people and knew and cared about their “little things” when they were invisible or ignored by others. Maybe with our heightened senses because of this pandemic, we can be more like Jesus. This is then an opportunity to better know ourselves and each other.