I think my opinion may be an unpopular one. Many people are dying. Medical personnel are working without full protection. Workers are facing unemployment. A few of my friends are distressed about their mental health.
Not to diminish the gravity, these are all examples of people experiencing great pain and suffering through the pandemic. Their suffering raises questions about why God chose to bring this onto us. Yet, God has pointed me to places that I would not have walked down had it not been for the current situation:
I talk to my far away friends and family more. Two of my dear high school friends, whom I roomed with when we worked together in London, UK, are now in Hong Kong (they got married later on.. 🙂 ). Given the long flight, we rarely see each other. But the pandemic gave me a reason to reach out and ask, “how are you?” We scheduled a zoom call and chatted merrily, reminiscing about the good old days.
The whole lockdown made it more common to have video calls. Everyone is signing up for an account and learning all the various tools. Heck, even my mum now knows how to switch on video chat mode on WhatsApp. If you know her tech literacy, this is an amazing feat.
I experienced solitude, and loved it. What used to take me an entire afternoon at work, now takes less than an hour. As I reflected on what made that difference, I concluded that it must be the lack of distraction: the colleague who would tap me on the shoulder for a ‘quick’ question, the banter in the kitchen, the small talks in meetings that eat up a third of the allotted meeting times. In case you think I’m an introvert, I am absolutely not (Heather can attest). I have my fair share of kicking and screaming for the lack of social engagement. And in the few moments I come across a physical person (grocery runs, morning jogs), I fully unleash my extroversion! But this whole lockdown and isolation has really forced me to experience solitude and its benefits.
I started reading fiction. I am a hardcore numbers, logic, and math kind of person. I studied engineering at school. I work in tech. I talk to software developers daily. I work with data, numbers, and code. My normal reading consumption includes Harvard Business Review publications with topics like: How to improve website click through rates…. Improve user engagement …. Improve employee retention. If it was not for teaching kids in Sunday School (back when it was possible to still gather), I am as lively as a robot. Since I get things done faster now, I find myself with a few extra hours in between meetings. I use that time to read. I wanted something a bit different, because my brain was all fried up from data-crunching. Fiction! My mind wandered to our Church skit last year that had a Harry Potter theme. It was a fun effort with a fellow church friend, though honestly, I faked a lot of the knowledge from gleaning what the kids told me about the story. Perhaps it was time for me to give into it. And there I went… And I did not turn back. The first evening I kept turning pages through Prisoner of Azkaban (I needed to find out the whole backstory of Wormtail and Sirius!). I absolutely loved it, how did I not start this earlier?
I explored Wellbeing. Another thing I started was online classes. One of the classes, “The Science of Wellbeing,” appeared on my Facebook newsfeed and I clicked to check it out. I really thought it was going to be one of those boring ‘Exercise releases endorphins and blah blah blah blah ….” and is either, impractical, difficult to understand, or not scientifically based. Gosh was I wrong. Content was funny, relatable and very practical. For the folks who go to Highrock Church, it’s like putting every spiritual practice that our pastors teach us into a massive open online course. Then, adding some young students, who we dismiss and judge as naive but secretly know we were once, or still are, like them.
There other things as well. Picking up guitar. Learning piano. And mindfulness, which was one of the things I learned from the Wellbeing class.
Strangely, I see light from this darkness. Amidst all the news about the number of infected cases growing, I also see growing numbers around recovery. I see countries that are starting to pass the peak. I see places that have started to ease out of lockdown. I see solidarity from people applauding the medical workers. I see joy from people and families who make fun videos of dressing up or singing Broadway pieces. It’s a weird feeling. Many around me are seeing the dark. But I see light. A lot of light. A lot of hope. Everything will be alright.
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference
Excerpt of the ‘Serenity Prayer’
Enjoying the virtual Easter service with Highrock!
This blog post was contributed Athens Fitzcheung. It is part of a series attempting to share the many different stories of individuals as they experience the coronavirus pandemic. Please be respectful of the views and beliefs of others if they are different than your own. If you or someone you know have a story you would like to share (anonymously or not), please feel free to send me a message or comment here.