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Getting back to gratefulness

By Erika Thompson, Manager of Creative & Communication

The COVID-19 crisis requires us to physically separate from others. Ironically, since isolation started, I have felt more connected than ever to people, though not without a little bit of effort.

At PAR, I lead a team of creative and hard-working individuals who haven’t wavered in their commitment. We have stayed connected by carving out more time for social chats via video, and we had a virtual happy hour to celebrate our first week working remotely. And as we’re all animal lovers, it’s a big perk to hear a familiar bark or see a cat tail swish into view while on a work call.

At home, I’ve found I have more control over my time. Pre-COVID, I commuted 40 minutes to work each day. In our new world, I spend this time in the morning getting more sleep. Later, I spend it taking an early evening walk/bike ride/scooter ride with my family—a new habit I look forward to so profoundly I can’t understand why it’s taken me this long to make it a part of my weekday life. The neighborhood is filled with other families doing the same thing. We look at each other with the same look of determined friendliness and camaraderie. “We’re in this together, and we’ll get through it together,” we all say with our eyes as we wave.

Socially, I’ve used the apps Marco Polo, Houseparty, and Zoom to keep in contact with friends. Our texting chains speak to long histories of leaning on each other through the years, but there is something about seeing their faces that makes me feel grounded and comforted. We laugh with each other, say hi to the spouses and kids flitting in and out of camera range, commiserate about hair gone untouched for days, and lay our most vulnerable sides and anxieties bare knowing there will be no judgment. I hang up feeling whole every time.

My kids now have Zoom meetings with their teachers and classmates multiple times a week, and they’re both on Messenger Kids to text or talk with close friends. Half the time, their messages consist of sixteen poop emojis and an out-of-focus selfie, but it’s still connection. Even more extraordinary—my mother has figured out how to use the app, including the video function, and she has daily chats with the kids, cheerfully asking them “How was school today?” even though we all know this sham we’re conducting at my house is no substitute for real school, where actual trained professionals are in charge.

Life has turned upside-down, but we’re still here. I feel a renewed sense of gratefulness for what I have and for what others are doing for me and our communities. Not everyone is so fortunate. Health care workers are risking their lives to do their jobs. Delivery drivers, restaurant workers, grocery workers, other essential workers—they all continue toiling away for my benefit. My own bosses have recognized how difficult this time is and have expressed that we, their employees, are their number-one priority.

The COVID crisis is horrendous, but it’s reminded me to be grateful for what I have—friendship, health, and joy.