I clearly remember meeting a friend at one of W. O. Riley Park’s pavilions on a cold day last year for a socially distanced picnic lunch. She said, “COVID-19 has made us all socially awkward.” She hit the nail on the head! COVID-19 created a sense of social awkwardness in me, as well as others. Old ways of greeting people with handshakes, hugs, perhaps even a kiss on the cheek were tossed aside for all of our sakes, while face masks, social distancing, and no touching were embraced by many. Maybe you remember walking into a store for the first time after everything shut down, accompanied by anxiety, hypervigilance about personal safety when others didn’t mask up, and avoidance of aisles that were occupied.
One of our sons surprised me for Mother’s Day 2020, and my first thought was joy, followed quickly by questions about whether it was safe to hug him, and then shock that it was up for question and not automatic. Talk about awkward!
As vaccines become more widely available, I venture out more frequently and having received my second vaccine, with less anxiety, but with a sense of social awkwardness. Do we unmask with others who are vaccinated? Can we shake hands? What about hugs? These are things I took for granted. Now I find myself on the internet researching what the best and safest practices are. A clerk in a store in February touched my elbow in a kind and helpful way. It felt both comforting and shocking. That simple casual gesture felt odd. Another person shook my hand! It was the first time that had happened in 13 months.
Psalm 126:1-3 has been running around in my brain most days in the past few weeks. Its words comfort me with the assurance that I am not alone in this sense of awkwardness. And they give me hope about the future that we can live into if we continue to be diligent in caring for each other. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy. The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.”
Anticipating joy and laughter ~ Anne
These meditations are provided as a ministry in this time of pandemic as a ministry of St. Paul’s U. C. C.