By HOLLY PAROD, LCSW
During this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, it is easy to become scared and overwhelmed. These are feelings that we often pass on to our children, unknowingly, as they sense our fear and discomfort, and often take their lead from the ways in which we view the world.
Rather than watching the national news or discussing the headlines of the local paper, what if we all took time to be grateful for the new world that we have discovered as a part of quarantine or working from home? What if we took time to appreciate all the time we have spent together as families and the activities we have rediscovered?
Over the past few months, jigsaw puzzles have sold out of stores, as have bikes and free weights, as people have taken time to create together, explore together and work on personal fitness. Rather than rushing off to baseball games and work meetings, we cooked dinner together, tried new dessert recipes, and enjoyed frozen pizza and a movie night.
In this time of quiet, we took walks in our neighborhoods, actually speaking to our neighbors, hiked in nearby state parks noticing wildlife, and sat outside reading books and looking at stars. We taught grandparents and older family members how to Zoom or FaceTime so that we could be together while staying safely apart.
We planted seeds and flowers, and we walked in the rain as we tended to them. We suddenly gained appreciation for eating outdoors. We were no longer too busy to color, paint and mail birthday cards to friends and family. Some of us explored new hobbies and talents, while others called long-distance friends instead of texting.
“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also help people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power” (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier).
Instead of focusing on the negativity of this pandemic, perhaps we all need to take time to be grateful for what we have learned and experienced from just being forced to slow down and spend time with those who are most important to us. We are hearing over and over again from students and educators how happy kids are to be back in school for in-person learning. We are seeing an increased appreciation for the work teachers do every day, most importantly from the kids who are sitting in their seats, six feet apart. Just as we have found a new appreciation for family cookouts, birthday parties, graduation events and weddings, perhaps we have a newfound appreciation for all that schools and teachers provide every day.
Tonight at dinner, as you discuss the events of the day, challenge each person at the table to share one aspect of the day he or she is grateful for. Then ask what COVID-19 has taught them to appreciate. You will be surprised how much there is to be grateful for, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Holly Parod, LCSW, is the Youth First social worker at St. Benedict Cathedral School in Evansville.