During this pandemic, you likely heard, and may have even uttered the words, “new normal.”
This oxymoron is the light at the end of the tunnel, when we look forward to reuniting with family, friends, colleagues, and peers. We anticipate these gatherings will be different, likely featuring face masks and social distancing for at least a period of time.
We all pray that after a vaccine is developed and available, we can return to our places of worship, stadiums, restaurants, and family tables.
In our moments of solitude, it is natural and expected to grasp for what once was- what is familiar.
Yet, we are also invited to critically examine the past and the present so we can change what comes next.
I was struck recently by these challenging words about normality from author and social activist, Sonya Renee Taylor.
The challenge before us is this: Can we emerge from our shelter and fear by creating a new reality?
The early Christians (ACTS 2:42-47) provide a glimpse of how to proceed:
“They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
Every day they devoted themselves
to meeting together in the temple area
and to breaking bread in their homes.
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,
praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.”
Let’s do more than imagine of a world where we are consistently grateful, communal, and in service to neighbor and stranger alike.
Let’s make this a reality.
Let’s learn from our isolation, from our experiences of fear, our mourning of loss, our challenges with health, and all of our limitations. Let’s recognize that all of these experiences, while new and temporary, may be quite common for our neighbors. We will eventually return to some sense of what once was, but for others, that normality remains unjust, unfair, and dangerous.
Perhaps by experiencing first-hand just a glimpse of having our basic needs unsettled, we can empathize and finally stand up for those who spend every day trying to survive and to keep their loved ones safe.
Let us also learn to reprioritize who we value.
It isn’t actors, politicians, and athletes, it’s nurses and teachers. It’s those who grow, package, and deliver our food and those who transport our medicine, our packages, our mail. It is all those first responders who risk their lives (and the lives of their families) every day, and it is all the doctors, researchers, counselors, and health officials who are trying to save lives. We see glimpses in these individuals of how to love: using our talents to serve.
We see others do this as well-making masks, preparing meals, generously listening and guiding, praying, accompanying- it goes unnoticed, it may feel monotonous, but it is essential-it is love.
There will be no new normal. Life will change, as it always does. Let’s co-create a reality that is just for all, values life and community, brings out the best in us, and reflects God’s unconditional love.
Let us seek and find a better tomorrow for all.