The Journey We Share

February a year ago, I was celebrating my 66th birthday and just got back from a great vacation in Florida with friends and family. Within a month, the pandemic hit us, but it took a while to understand just what that would mean. Thinking back to May a year ago, I was just waking up to the shock of how much our lives had changed in three short months, and bracing for how much they would change over the next twelve. Now here we are today.

It may be tempting to put this pandemic year away in a box of hurt and fear we don’t want to open again as we slowly return to a “normal” we left behind. That would be a mistake.

What Just Happened?

There is wisdom to be drawn on in our lived experiences as we move forward. When we acknowledge what we have learned together, it can be a base from which to build a transformational movement for peace and justice. There are important events, people, places and moments that define who we are now. Listening to the pandemic stories and seeing the journeys of others deepens our knowledge and understanding of each other.

As I talk to people and reflect upon my own experience, I am reminded that not only did extroverts like me feel isolated and alone, but so did my friends who are introverts. As much as I could connect with people I work with over Zoom, it was still lonely. We need to remember this.

We can ask ourselves and others, what are the key people or events that marked our journey this past year? Thinking about Black Lives Matter and the people we saw out on the streets – despite the pandemic – how did our understanding of justice inform these experiences? Watching the assault on the Capitol, the organizing to vote despite restrictions, to mask or not to mask, food lines and job loss, we all had different – and sometimes wildly different – experiences. Our willingness to share our pandemic journey with each other can be critical to healing divisions.

Acceptance and Respect

We can’t ignore that this pandemic has prompted all kinds of behavior, good and bad. Acknowledging our lived experiences does not always mean we took the best path on our journeys through 2020 and 2021. Yes, there are some people who are so violent or so unreasonable that we can’t even begin to talk. But so many of us have family members or neighbors with whom we just haven’t seen eye to eye.

I think we learn as much from our mistakes and differences as from our successes. People made choices, and are still making choices, that we don’t agree with. But we need to understand and respect the choices of others and the circumstances that led them (and us) to make the decisions they did before we can move on.

If we don’t, we will remain more divided from each other. We need to have a conversation.

We can’t be afraid to acknowledge the ups and downs of our lives. Let’s acknowledge them to each other, share our stories, and continue together on our journey to peace and justice.