When This Is Over… · 18 April 2020

I wonder what will happen when COVID-19 is over. I wonder what will happen when we survive the pandemic. Mostly, I wonder if we will have learned anything.

They say that those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. And we can certainly see this throughout history. Over and over and over again, we make mistakes. The same ones. Over and over and over again. The same exact mistakes. Just in a different flavor.

One of the things I have noticed during this time of social distancing is that people seem to be coming closer together. Not physically. After all, that is the point of social distancing. Keeping away from each other physically. But that physical distancing seems to be doing wonders for the emotional and psychological and spiritual closeness we are having. Or maybe I am crazy.

I know there are those people who are going stir crazy being cooped up with their families. Those with young kids wonder what to do with those boundless balls of energy called toddlers. Those with teenagers who are either balls of energy themselves or are just bound to their computers and other devices. Those with multigenerational housing situations. Those who live in cramped housing of any sort. And of course, those without anybody. Surely, they are all going a little stir crazy.

But now that we are without our normal connections – without our work buddies or sports buddies or even church buddies – we realize that we can revitalize the most important connections. We can revitalize our family connections and our neighborhood connections.

One of the most interesting things that I have seen during the pandemic is that people seem to be outside more. Sure, it is spring. But even so, it seems there are more people out and about just walking. Keeping their distance from people outside their family groups, but people are out and about. And they seem more apt to stop and talk to others. Especially in their own neighborhoods.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you might remember a piece I did well over a decade ago about human hibernation. I wonder if this pandemic is bringing us out of a social hibernation. People have been connecting over the internet for years through social media, but are they really that connected? The face to face interactions seem to be happening more and more (albeit over six feet away from each other). People actually talk to their neighbors. Or maybe even help them out a bit.

By the way, there are more kids outside too. I think that is because there are more parents telling their kids to just go outside and play. I am about there too. Not that my kids are driving me crazy. They are just too connected to their devices. They just need a little vitamin sunshine.

I see being outside and walking with each other and visiting with neighbors as new connections. And all this new connecting is pretty amazing. It is a nice new normal. Which makes me wonder. What happens when this pandemic is over?

Do not think I am a pessimist. I am most certainly not. But even though I am not what you would call a history buff, I understand that people do not learn from history. Like I already said, we keep repeating our old mistakes. Which brings me back to my question. What happens when the social distancing of COVID-19 is over?

Map of the COVID-19 outbreak per capita
as of 17 March 2020

by Raphaël Dunant
(Alteration: size changed)
Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

My guess is that there are many people who will relish their newfound relationships with people who live right next door. There will be people who found out that they like their neighbors and want to keep those connections going. They will want to keep talking to their kids when this is over. But if history has shown us anything, it is that while many people will keep up their relationships, many people will keep this new normal, most will not. Most will go back to their own ways. The way it was before the pandemic.

Now, I must do a little preaching here, but it is just a smidge.

While I do not believe that God sends us pandemics, I know that He can use the bad stuff for His glory. Over and over and over again throughout history, God has called us to be faithful to Him. “Follow Me,” He cries over and over and over again. And when disaster falls, we fall. When crises come, we get down on our knees. When pandemics strike, we renew our relationship with the Creator and Keeper of our souls. At least while things are bad.

Like I already said, God did not cause the pandemic. But He can speak to us. If we allow Him to. If we just listen.

I do believe that the pandemic is God’s call to slow down. Take a break. Do not work so much. Take a day off. Each week. Renew your relationships with God. Renew your relationships with people. Love your neighbor. Do good to those who hate you. These are not new concepts. They are as old as life itself. We have just not been listening very closely. But we can. We can slow down and listen to God speak through our current situation and see that He has given a consistent message through all of history. His message has always been, “Come unto me.”

When this pandemic is over, I know there will people with new or renewed faith in God. I know there will be people who keep their connections with their neighbors, both near and far. I know there will be people who change their outlook on life. I know there will be people who actually change their lives. For the good. All because of a pandemic. Unfortunately, I also know this. History shows that we will probably go back to what we knew before the pandemic. People will forget about each other and go about their merry way once it is over. And people will forget about God too.

I know there are people who will be better because of the pandemic. But I still wonder. I still wonder if for most of us, life will just return back to the way it was. I wonder what will happen when this is over. I wonder…

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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