I’ve heard these questions a lot recently: “How do we respond to this social distancing thing? How do we respond to a virus that is changing everything? How do we respond to fear and anxiety over the unknown? How do we respond to endings with no closure?
If you know my family you know we are no strangers to life upheaval and chaos. In many ways the last few weeks have simply been another stressor on a big pile of stressors for our family. And believe me it can be very easy to get upset, to throw our hands in the air and scream, to lay in a fetal position and cry, to find ourselves yelling at a microscopic virus. I mean think about this. I have a son with a disability. He is on an IEP. If there is no school, how does he get his individualized needs met? Am I supposed to be his daddy and teacher now? He spends 80% of his day in a general education classroom. How is he supposed to interact with his friends? It's Kindergarten and he doesn’t even get to finish.
I have a daughter who absolutely loves school. She is so smart. Am I supposed to be her daddy and teacher now? Come on, 4th grade math is no joke! Not to mention she is a social butterfly, an extrovert like her father. How do I comfort her when she is longing for social contact on a daily basis and is limited to her mother, brother, and me?
I have a wife who has a full-time job at another university. She is one of 2 people that still has to go into her office. How do I help her balance work commitments and our family’s new normal? When do we have time for each other?
And me, I am a professor. I have over 60 majors in my little Family Science department. I am close to them. I teach to impart wisdom yes, but just as much to make an impact on their lives outside of the classroom. I thrive when my office is full of students just coming in to say hi. How am I supposed to make an impact through a computer screen? My seniors had to leave without a goodbye. I didn’t get to hug their necks. I didn’t get to give them their made-up silly family science awards. I don’t get to watch them walk across the stage at the end of April and receive that degree. How do I get closure with this amazing senior class?
How do we respond? The question is simple. The answer is anything but. That said, I want to share with you a few things that I have learned over the years of seemingly unending chaos that might help us find comfort in our response.
It is okay to grieve. Be sad. Be upset. Be angry. Cry, scream, punch a pillow. These are normal emotions, given to us by a God who knew that this broken world would not always be easy. There is no shame in feeling these things. We didn’t get closure on this school year. We didn’t get to say goodbye to our friends. We didn’t get to end this on our terms. And that stinks. It’s okay to grieve that. But this comes with a caveat. Don’t allow yourself to dwell here forever.
It is okay to laugh! Think about it. Out of the blue because someone somewhere may have eaten a bat the entire world is on lock-down? I mean you kind of have to smile at that. Or make it personal. I am spending my days with a 6 and 10 year old. Believe me there is a lot to laugh at. Today they opened a salon in their bathroom. I was their first and only customer. They styled my hair, painted my nails, and waxed my feet. That’s funny. I even entered into the world of Tik Tok just to make people laugh (check out the soon to be viral sensation).
Find joy in the unexpected. Social distancing is not my thing. I’m a people person. I have to be around people. On the enneagram I’m a 7. Like the most seveniest seven that ever sevened. I need to be the life of a party. But there is no party! Here’s the deal though, this time of social distancing is teaching me to find joy in simple things. I’m loving the one on one time I’m having with each of my kids. I’m loving the special times with my wife after long days. I’m finding time to read, for fun even. I’m finding time to write and to paint and to play with Lego. This whole mess was unexpected for all of us but believe me there is joy in this mess. Just look for it. I am reminded of the words of a favorite Steven Curtis Chapman song of mine: Be still and know that he is God. Be still and know that he is holy. Be still oh restless soul of mine. Bow before the prince of peace. Let the noise and clamor cease. Be still and know that he is God. Be still. Be speechless. Be still and know.
Remember this will pass. And when it does the world will be different. We are learning a lot about who we are. We are learning about how we can educate better, how we can be better friends, how we can support unconditionally, how we can love and serve in unique ways. We can’t, we won’t forget those lessons. We will be different. We will be better.
We respond by being our best selves and knowing that is enough!