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‘How Are You?’ Takes New Meaning during the Pandemic

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Father David BonnarHow are you? That is a greeting we utter throughout the day, often spontaneously without a second thought. But in this COVID-19 time, this expression has a whole new meaning. How are you? Honestly, how are you doing in the midst of this pandemic?

For many of us, I am sure that we are doing our best to “hang in there,” as they say. Some of us may say “living the dream, which seems more and more like a nightmare.” Some may remark, “Don’t ask.” Still others may be truly honest and simply say, “Not too good.”

These last few months have necessitated many adjustments in how we live our lives. We have had to embrace new realities like social distancing, masks, curbside pickup, frequent hand sanitizing, contact tracing, Zoom meetings, quarantines and continued uncertainty. The results of this, no doubt, are impatience and fatigue. Aren’t you just tired of it all?

And then, to top it off, at least where I live, we are in the midst of this sweltering heat wave with temperatures in the 90s and ozone-action days. The lawns are all burnt. What is more, because of the virus, all of the fountains are off in the local park. After a long run or walk, there is no water for refreshment. Even though there is no sand, it sure feels like we are in a desert, miles from civilization and years away from what was “normal town.”

How are you? Have you ever felt so utterly out of control? I am reminded of the expression, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” How can anyone plan anything at this unprecedented time? If you don’t know what I mean, then seek out a bride who had plans to be married this spring or summer. Churches have closed at various times. Venues have been limited. Vendors have all been affected in various ways. And then there is the whole issue of travel. Some states are demanding that people go into quarantine for two weeks if they visit a hot-zone state.

How are you doing? Perhaps the real answer is, “I am doing little.” Unemployment seems to be growing every day. The start of a new school year in the building is questionable at best. Professional sports are resuming, albeit without spectators. Vacations and family celebrations have, in many cases, been put on hold out of an abundance of caution.

Does it seem like everywhere we turn there is a door slammed shot? It is one obstacle after another. I think it is understandable why we are feeling fatigued.

The good news in all of this is that, as people of faith, we can transform these obstacles into opportunities to learn and grow. Many people have turned to gardening. Did you know that the U.S. seed company, W. Atlee Burpee and Co., sold the most seed in its history in March as the virus began to spread? I also discovered that Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Fairfield, Maine, experienced a 270% increase in orders once a national emergency was declared in March. It is interesting that in this time of what appears to be a standstill, many people are working on home gardens to watch growth unfold as they attempt to move on in this time of pandemic. How is your garden? What about the garden of your heart?

Perhaps the real opportunity before all of us is to think less of this world, which is limited and finite, and more about God’s kingdom, which is eternal and peaceful. We all need to allow the seed of his Word to take root in our hearts. Essentially, this means that we should pray more, focus more on God, pick up our cross and follow in Jesus’ footsteps. He will take away our fatigue because he says, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

How are you doing? It would be nice if we could all just say, “I am fine. With God’s grace, I am enduring the pandemic and using this time to grow closer to him and his Church, knowing that this Lent will one day give way to Easter.”

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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