What I’m Thankful for about Summer 2020
It’s Labor Day, the traditional celebration for the end of summer. We won’t be hosting people over to cook out with us, which we often do, but not this special year. So I thought I would replace that with a reflection of all the things about this summer for which I’m most grateful.
10. We never ran out of toilet paper!
Or of anything else we really needed, to be honest. So thanks, farmers and factory workers, truck drivers, grocery store staff, Farmers Market organizers, and all the other people in jobs I don’t even know to acknowledge but who worked while I stayed home to make sure our supply chain stayed intact.
9. Tom Hanks told us we would get through this together—so I knew we would.
I can’t tell you how perfect it was that Tom Hanks, the first celebrity that I heard about who had contracted COVID-19, hosted the first Saturday Night Live At Home show. That Saturday Night Live could re-invent itself to work with the staff filming by themselves at home was a reassurance that we could all figure out how to carry on with our own work, even if it meant doing it all differently. But best of all was when Tom Hanks ended his monologue with a thanks to essential personnel, a request that we take care of each other, and his pledge that “We are in this for the duration and we will get through this together.” It was just what I needed to hear at that time, because I believe that if Tom Hanks says it, it must be true.
(And OK, so technically that happened in April, which is not really the summer, but Tom Hanks transcends seasons.)
Second kudos go to Brad Pitt, who made Dr. Anthony Fauci’s joke about being played by Pitt come true. Dr. Fauci is another of my heroes of this year, so it was great to see Brad make his comments come to life and to deliver another inspirational thanks to Dr. Fauci and all the other medical person who have worked so hard to keep us all safe.
(Also technically April, but Brad Pitt gets an exception as well.)
8. The Democratic primary ended up being a love fest instead of a blood bath.
I’m a bleeding heart liberal, so I tend to align with the Democratic party. So I was so happy to see the party come together rather than attack each other from different ends of the spectrum. If there is anything I wish for our country, it is that we can regain what I think has held this nation through struggles greater than our current ones: that we can find more things that we have in common than those that divide us.
I’ll be honest: Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice, or my second…and I think I’ll stop there. Still, I can embrace his candidacy wholeheartedly. He is a good, honest, caring, and open-minded person that I can support enthusiastically, even if we don’t agree on all policy issues. As I am writing this, I’m thinking he is basically the politician version of Tom Hanks, which makes me like him even more.
I’m also really excited to have Kamala Harris as the vice president nominee. Just her nomination alone raises the spirits of women, African Americans, Asian Indian Americans, and all who wish for more diversity in the so-far-all-too White House.
And speaking of Democrats—I have to give a shout-out to our NC governor, Roy Cooper. He stared down Presidential bullying for not allowing a Republican convention in our state without coronavirus restrictions, overcame opposition by the legislature for his reasonable and responsible slow approach to re-opening operations, disregarded threats about legal action by industry groups unhappy about his approach, and generally guided our state to a summer with the lowest rates of disease and illness in the Southeast (if you don’t count Virginia, which increasingly seems to belong more to the mid-Atlantic states)…without losing his cool, calm, soothing demeanor once. Governor Cooper, you are, as they say, a gentleman and a scholar (at least of the actually FACTS surrounding the coronavirus).
Thank you, Governor Cooper and all those other state workers whose names I don’t know, for keeping us safe.
7. I’ve gotten my money’s worth of the professional license for Zoom I paid for to deliver my last two months of classes last spring.
Of course, when I got my annual subscription, I—foolish me—thought we would be over this by the summer. And….well, it hasn’t worked out that way. But my subscription has allowed me to host game nights and committee meetings and book discussions and home groups and keeping up with friends and family, and probably more that I’ve forgotten. Now that my classes are starting up again tomorrow, I’ll be using it with my students this year, at least at the beginning. So it has turned out to be a much better investment than I realized when I got it in March.
When things got real here in North Carolina, which was in mid-March, I switched my live literature classes to doing classes via Zoom. Because my class was already a “flipped” class (meaning that students do much of the reading and work at home on their own and come to class to discuss what they have learned), it worked pretty well online. I was so inspired by how seamlessly my students made the transition and how they never complained about the extra steps they had to take to work through the technology and what they were missing by foregoing in-person classes. I never share the names of my students, but they know who they are, and I’m so grateful for their positive attitudes as we finished our classes.
Also, I just have to reference this great insight from Arthur C. Clarke
I really don’t know how Zoom works on the technical side, or how the internet works, or how cell phone technology works, or most of the technical aspects of all these technologies I depend up to stay connected to people during this sheltering at home time. But once again, I give thanks to those who do—those who create and maintain these programs, those who lay the cables and wires, those who somehow keep our cellular towers working and our satellites in the sky, and those who do things I don’t even know about but the whole system wouldn’t work without them—thank you all so much.
6. I overcame the discomfort of speaking to an empty room, trusting through the magic of Zoom that SOMEBODY out there was listening.
By sometime in March, my spiritual center also moved to delivering its services and activities virtually through Zoom and Facebook Live. I’m one of the people who participates periodically in the services, by doing meditations, playing a supportive on-stage role in the Sunday services, or giving the talk on our Wednesday night services. But particularly when I gave talks, I was used to the give and take of a live audience—asking and responding to questions, reading facial expressions to see if my points were going through, and, as an extrovert, just feeding off of the energy I get from being with other people.
We kept doing everything we used to do, just via Zoom. But honestly, for me it was weird at the beginning. It was hard to keep up my energy and my focus and emotional connection when the only people in the room were huddled by the computer that was our conduit to the outer world.
However, inspired by my models of Tom and Brad (see #9), as well as all those other nameless people I’ve mentioned previously…well, as one of my very good friends has tattooed on her body:
One of the things that I tell my students is that you have to be willing to go through being bad at something in order to get good at it. I don’t know if I was bad in the beginning, and I don’t know if I’m good at it now. I only know that while it felt strange at first, it is getting to feel almost natural now. If nothing else, it is less of a drain on me, which I hope means that I am providing more energy for whoever happens to be listening to me on the other end of the camera.
While I don’t know who and what makes Zoom possible in the bigger world, I know who makes it possible in my spiritual center. My experience is that person doesn’t like getting a lot of attention, and so I won’t mention their name. But they know who they are. I am so grateful to them for the hours of time they spent getting our center technically able to do as much as we have been able to do, and the hours they have been the one behind the computer broadcasting my words to the world. Thank you.
5. I got to drink a lot of champagne for virtual graduations.
Since my son is of college age, I’ve got lots of friends with children of similar ages who graduated this spring from either high school or college. I celebrated each and every one…by myself, at home, since traditional graduations were all cancelled during these coronavirus times. Of course, since it was just me, I didn’t have the usual single drink, since I had to finish off the bottle (hic). On the plus side, I drank a lot of the rainbow-striped champagne that Barefoot Wines issued this summer in honor of Gay Pride Month, which makes solo drinking more festive.
Still, to all those students, I acknowledge their achievements, even if I didn’t get to tell them that in person.
It breaks my heart that these students, leaving and entering high school and/or college, aren’t getting all the celebration that I think they deserve. But I’m so impressed how well they are handling it. They are young people who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 and are graduating in the shadow of COVID-19. Their positive perspective, regardless of the things they have missed due to our sheltering restrictions, gives me hope that this generation is really one that will make our country a more perfect union—for real.
4. I experienced young people making a difference despite the difficulties of the situation.
Before all the stay at home orders hit, a musical band composed of my former students, who were also some of my son’s best friends, had been working towards holding a fundraising concert at my spiritual center. They wanted to play for free with all donations going to A Place At The Table, a pay-what-you-can restaurant in Raleigh where no one is turned away for lack of funds.
Everything got more complicated when the corornavirus restrictions hit. Still, the band kept practicing in hopes that they could still use their musical talents to raise money for such a worthy cause.
At the end of July, they gave a virtual online concert at our center. I’m sure it wasn’t as satisfying for them to perform to a nearly-empty room (see #6 above), and we had some technical difficulties that made the sound quality of the show, at least at the beginning, ….well, not the best (and thanks again to the person referred to in #6 above for figuring out how to make things better as the concert progressed).
Nonetheless, the concert raised $980 for A Place At The Table. That is almost 100 free meals provided to the community. I’m so grateful to the band, to my son who was the MC, to our spiritual center that hosted them, and to APATT for the difference I know that made for our neighbors whose summers were more difficult than my own.
And, of course, I’m so proud for all the determined, peaceful young protestors that are leaders in the long-overdo campaign for substantive reform in social justice. As the iconic Apple ad once said, “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Shine on you crazy diamonds!
3. I learned Community doesn’t have to mean being together physically.
If you know the Myers-Briggs types, I usually test as 100% extravert. So I’m surprised that this summer hasn’t been more difficult for me, who LOVES being around people, than it has been.
Of course, I’ve had my son and husband and cats at home, so I’m not been alone. But I’m grateful for how my friends and family have stayed in touch and kept my extravert cup filled through phone calls and Zoom talks if not actual in-person events.
But I particularly have to credit my spiritual center for providing a weekly structure and connection that I think helped my summer to go as well as it has. Not only has it continued to offer both Sunday and Wednesday night services (and allowed me to participate in a number of them), but it sponsored game nights, dance parties, virtual lunches, and other social events for us to stay connected as friends, not just as “congregants.”
While this was the work of many people (see # 6 above) and I give a huge shout out to all the people who made these things happen. However, I want to particularly thank our Senior Minister and our Center Administrator, who have not only organized, but attended, almost all, if not all, of our center’s events this summer. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t tell you how important that has been for me. You are amazing leaders as well as cherished friends.
2. I got to have my son home full time for a little longer.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read all of the Harry Potter series and plan to, skip this one.
What I have realized is that becoming a parent is kind of like creating good horcruxes, to use Harry Potter terminology; you deposit part of your soul in each child you claim. You want them to grow up and follow their destiny, even though that usually takes them away from you. And while that horcrux keeps you connected, it also means that part of you feels missing whenever they are away.
This summer, I hardly ever worried about my son’s wellbeing because he was home all the time (and we all know that nothing bad can happen to them when they are under Mama’s roof, right?). It is not what I wish for him. But I have to admit that it made things easier for me to deal with all the rest of the anxiety of this time, because having him at home helped me feel, in the words of one of the affirmations from my spiritual center, more whole, perfect, and complete.
- My loved ones are healthy
My family and I are safe and healthy (even my 93-year-old father who lives in DC, next to the new baby panda they have at the National Zoo–YAY!). At least as last I heard, my friends and their families are safe and healthy. With a few exceptions, my spiritual community and their families are safe and healthy. And really, what would I need besides that to make this a summer for which I experience extreme gratitude?
So that’s my list of the things I’m most grateful for this summer. How about you?