I want to start by saying that I hope this column finds you healthy, safe and well. If, however, you have experienced the loss of a loved one, a business or a life that you are mourning because of COVID-19, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you — and with us all — as we continue to navigate these turbulent waters.
I don’t want this column to be another synopsis of the sadness we see on the news every day. I want to find the goodness that still exists. Here are some lessons I learned this year that I’m keeping with me for 2021:
Mindfulness. Suddenly, we have been made mindful of everything, especially how we used to take the small moments for granted, like a grandparent’s hug, sharing a slice of coffee cake with a friend, sleepovers with cousins or potluck parties.
We didn’t realize how blessed those small everyday moments were. We do now, and I think this is something that will stay with us for a long time. Much like our Depression Era grandparents who held onto every jar and burlap sack and piece of scrap metal, we will hold on to the small moments and treasure them going into the future.
Consumption. When the grocery stores got slammed and products started flying off the shelves, a lot of us in the country were suddenly more thankful than ever for gardens and the ability to can and stock the pantries and freezers.
The manufactured products and consumerism that had become the background of everyday life suddenly looked different. Some things can’t easily be made at home — toilet paper, paper towels and so much more — so we learned to ration them wisely and to pay attention to what we used.
I’ve become impressed by how much we can save by altering our habits slightly, and I don’t want to go back to mindless overconsumption.
Time. Time was different BV (aka, before the virus). I made that abbreviation up, so let’s see if it catches on. It can’t be shortened to BC, before COVID-19, for obvious reasons.
BV, you were busy working your farm, running to your day job if you have one, running to 4-H meetings and Farm Bureau meetings, working on a church committee or two, running the kids to ball practice and ballet, and trying to remember who needed what gear and what snacks. You were probably thinking, why aren’t there any more hours in the day?
Well, while work and the farm haven’t gone away, a lot of the rest of it paused for a long moment. Long enough for us to remember what it’s like to have dinner together as a family at an actual table for several nights a week.
Long enough to recapture a few cozy, snuggly weekend mornings when breakfast became a group activity and not a Pop-Tart on the run. Long enough to realize that while we are often well-intentioned to want to participate and to do all of the things all of the time, we really aren’t built for that.
I think the slowdown has been very important in recalibrating priorities. It’s made us realize that while it’s important to be involved in your community, you can do so at a pace that preserves your sanity, your health and your family's time. A rundown, ragged-out, overcommitted you isn’t giving your best to anything. It’s better to commit only to a few things a season than to overload yourself.
Technology. I know rural broadband is an issue, but when it works, God bless it. It allows us so many opportunities these days.
We can visit face-to face with family members over video; play games together even though we’re miles away; teach our children their schoolwork; and attend our work meetings, church services and community events virtually. We can stay connected when we can’t be there in person, and it helps with both the issues of time and overconsumption.
I’m no longer driving two hours one way in traffic for a one-hour meeting, to then turn around and drive two hours back. Instead, I’m saving time, money and the impact of fossil fuels on the carbon footprint by taking a virtual meeting from my kitchen table.
In the meantime, I’ve got dinner in the oven and fresh sheets tumbling in the dryer. No more coming home exhausted from a long commute to a quick dinner and a disheveled house.
I know that it doesn't completely replace meeting in person, and some things will always be better together live, but for some things, virtual meetings have become a real efficient way of doing things.
The basics. Capturing all these things — mindfulness, consumption, time and technology — has led us back to the basics.
Fresh-baked bread that you made yourself, a moment of peace on the back porch, cleaning out closets and giving spare items to Goodwill or the homeless shelter, or mailing a card through the actual mail.
I pray that we get a handle on COVID-19 soon, that the loss of life and economic stability ends, and that we move forward into a safer and more prosperous era. When we do, I hope we take some of the lessons we learned from this time with us.
I hope the future is a little slower and less harried; a little more mindful and less consumed; and calmer, safer and brighter for all of us.
Watson-Hampton farms with her family on their fourth-generation family farm in Brandywine, Md.