A letter to my post-pandemic self

Published 9:41 am Sunday, May 1, 2022

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Dear post-pandemic self, you are as tired of mentioning what happened the last couple of years as people are of hearing about it. Fact is, someone saw the headline just now and decided they weren’t even going to read this week. That’s OK. I need to say what I need to say. 

That’s because you’ve learned a couple of things about misfortune. One is that just because you’d like to move on from something doesn’t mean that it’s ready to release you from its grip. Another is that when we fail to learn from painful chapters, we rob ourselves of the full wisdom that could come from them. 

So, no doubt even your dear friends may be murmuring “Could you just move on and not talk about the pandemic again right now?” Well, fact is you rarely mention it lately. But it’s still with us. Look at how attendance is these days, and not just at most churches. Concerts, ballgames and other gatherings tend not to see quite the same numbers they used to. That’s because some are still extra cautious. In some rare circumstances, that might be wise even now. 

You know something about the others. They simply got comfortable. They learned that some things could be live streamed. Though live-streams were never meant to replace actually being together, the pandemic produced a little army of folks who now simply value the comforts of home, pajamas and their favorite coffee mug if whatever they should be at is live streamed. 

The ironic fact is that you’ve actually moved on in one healthy way more than some who simply want to forget. You’ve acknowledged what some won’t: this thing will be with us perhaps for the rest of our lives. We have moved into an endemic phase now, meaning that this virus will continue medically to resurface from time to time. We’ll be getting vaccine boosters for the foreseeable. Maybe forever. Therefore with proper precautions taken, we have to move on with our lives now. 

While we’re talking, here’s another issue you’ve just now come to grips with. You’re grieving. Some say they’ve come through this thing and are tired. Your word instead is sad. You aren’t the only one who carries an abiding sadness, either. All of us lost in some way or another during this time. Maybe it was loved ones who died, so we grieve. But maybe it’s the wreckage left behind from this couple of years, as civic clubs and workplaces, churches, schools and restaurants alike continue to struggle now. Volunteerism also took it on the chin.

Here’s a thing that baffles you. You didn’t foresee that some people would emerge from this experience more aggressive than they used to be. A wise person once said, “I sat with my anger long enough that she finally told me her real name was grief.” I’m not sure that increased societal aggression is completely a result of grief. But that’s one big factor. I’m also pretty sure that two years of primarily hiding behind a keyboard and a camera just made some people more rude than they ordinarily would have been.  

OK, let’s come to grips with another thing. Though we may resist hearing it again, we are now living in a new normal. If we’re still waiting for things to snap back to the way they used to be, we need to understand that that’s not going to happen completely. The morning has dawned on a new post-pandemic world. 

It has taught us some positive things. It showed us an awful lot of good in humanity. Some goodness showed up early, and continues to emerge as needs are identified. 

You are also disappointed at some of what it left behind, whether our focus is on economics, culture, religion or even war. You lost respect for some people in your life because they turned out to be self-centered, willfully ignorant or selfish. Some could not see past their own felt needs or the letter of their rights long enough to be good humans.

So reckon with this new world in which we live. Figure out what adjustments you still need to make. Because the sooner you do, the easier some things may get. 

Through it all, God is still God. Not the Creator of a virus that ripped through us. Not the endorser of selfish attitudes. But more visible as a Sustainer who guides, loves and even now recreates. The author of hope, goodness and love who eventually wins out over evil.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.