We had our first staff meeting this week since….no one could remember when.  Maybe it was February, maybe January.  It was really more like a community meeting, though, as the meeting included both residents and staff.  The focus was all about navigating these interesting times as we continue welcoming guests back to our house.

I was at the last staff meeting, whenever it was, but I don’t remember needing it, or wanting it, or enjoying it as much as I did our gathering this week.  Although the staff has been back for more than a month now, it is rare that all of the staff members are in the house at the same time.  To be able to gather again and see everyone’s smiling eyes (since mouths were covered with masks) was a comfort and a pleasure.  We had a good discussion brainstorming ideas about keeping everyone safe when they are in the house, talking about what has worked well so far and what needs to be tweaked moving forward.

I wonder how many simple things we are more aware of or appreciative of now that we have gone without so many familiar things this year.  How many common, every day or every week activities have we stopped taking for granted?

More than one person has commented how different shopping is now.  No more leisurely strolls through a store, looking to see what’s new or what’s on sale.  Now, we make a list, get in, get what we need and get out as quickly as possible.   I have found that I am more patient waiting in line or pausing to let someone else pass when I am in the store.

Church services are another one of those things that have changed.  Whether you have returned to in-person services or continue to participate online, the services are just different.  In our parish, there is still no cup and no handshake for the sign of peace.  Physical distancing has spread out the community even more than usual (no more crowding into the last three pews, either) and the procession for communion is slower.  Maybe a slower communion procession is not a bad thing though – maybe it is more reflective, less automatic.  Another difference is the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation.  Each child has their own spotlight for these important milestones, rather than the class celebrations of past years.   I wonder if they will remember their First Communion or Confirmation differently than I do, or if they feel more special in this unique year.

I miss traveling, driving around the state or country to see things I have never seen before.  This year, I find I am paying more attention to all that is around me right here that I never really noticed before – watching the deer, turkeys, woodchucks and other animals wander our grounds;  enjoying the hummingbirds that are so active and unafraid of these rather gigantic human beings that share their space; learning the names of the multitude of flowers in the woods or the gardens and watching them bloom; listening to the birds, frogs and other critters who share our grounds; noticing the beauty and intricacy of a paper wasp nest.

Perhaps we needed to have our routines shaken up a bit, so we could appreciate all those simple things we took for granted.  For community gatherings, guests in the house, wildlife, flowers, church services, shopping, traveling, wasp nests and so much more, we say Deo Gratias!