Last week, I asked readers to share practices, habits, or perspectives that they have picked up during the pandemic that they’d like to carry with them in the years ahead. The response was incredible; story after story of beauty and goodness discovered in these difficult years. I teared up reading them. I texted my husband: “People are amazing.”
The past few years have been marked by political failure, frustration, inequality, injustice, and the pain of death and mourning. But these stories remind me that, often in quiet ways, this time has also nurtured and reaffirmed the tenacity of beauty and love.
People wrote about taking up running, exercising, cooking, baking, learning languages and musical instruments, feeding the homeless, doing karate, gardening, deepening friendships or learning to slow down and reconnect with God, themselves and others. With so many testimonies of endurance and joy, I only regret that I can’t share each one.
Many readers identified with my new habit of hiking and shared how much walking or hiking have meant to them. Some said they logged hundreds of miles. Others described exploring new neighborhoods and parts of their city through urban hikes. Some of the responses below have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
From Indiana, Karen Doebler, who is a nurse in an I.C.U. unit, wrote about how walking the dog was an activity she and her husband could do together, even as they were trying to keep their distance from each other at home to protect him from possible Covid exposures.
“We usually walked for about a mile or so, and then came home. We would talk and touch base about what we had been doing these days or our hopes for the days to come. It was a daily connection,” she wrote. “It was something I looked forward to every day, a bright spot in all the fear and uncertainty around me.
“Now, the risks are less, and we don’t worry so much about me bringing Covid-19 home, and my husband has gone back to work. We still make time for those afternoon walks, though, and I still consider them to be one of the best times of the day. I arrange all my plans around it. I think of it as a gift from Covid, and I am glad that something good came out of that time.”
Dan Styer of Ohio wrote: “I would go on a long nighttime walk with the dog just before going to sleep, and together we would watch the fireflies.
“We saw bats, we heard deer. We saw the moon, the stars, the Milky Way. Once we saw a meteor. We smelled the sweetness of summer. Our walks grew longer and longer, occasionally more than a mile, illuminated only by the faint natural light. My senses of sound and smell and touch sharpened. (I can’t speak for the dog.) I thought of Robert Frost: ‘I have been one acquainted with the night.’
“For the first time in my life I saw glow worms. We walked in darkness as the leaves colored and then fell, we walked through dark snowstorms and bitter cold and under the brilliant stars of Orion.”
Many others rediscovered a love of reading.
Brad Robertson from Portland, Ore., wrote, “I reinvigorated my lifelong habit of reading during Covid. Since March 2020, instead of getting on email at the beginning of the day, I spend at least 30 minutes reading. Sometimes more. Even as work is returning to a more robust schedule, I’ve kept this up almost every day for the last two years. Without feeling like it’s been a huge effort, that totals up to about 160 books and counting.”
Heather Wishik from Vermont wrote that because she is immunocompromised, she must continue to isolate even though she is fully vaccinated. She and her spouse have adopted the practice of reading aloud. “I do the research to select a book I think we will like, and she reads to me — a chapter or two or three depending on how long they are,” she wrote.
“Being read to was a joy for each of us as children, and now as older adults we are recapturing that magic while discovering authors we have not known before or books never read by authors we like. We have read fiction and nonfiction, comic and serious. Our current book is ‘Watergate: A New History,’ by Garrett M. Graff, and the most recent fiction we read was ‘Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,’ by Mario Vargas Llosa.”
Some of my favorite responses were about practices that have brought deeper connection among families, friends and neighbors. Debbie Kaminer of New York wrote that she and her family invented a contest called “the boring game.” (She says it’s a lot more entertaining than it sounds!)
“Each person gets 60 seconds of uninterrupted time to tell any boring story they want,” she said. “We go around a circle and everyone in our family of five gets a turn. We then all vote for the story we find most boring. Winner gets bragging rights. The game is such a hit that now that my kids are (finally) back at college after schools shut down for the pandemic, they FaceTime us so they can play.”
May Wong of Bethlehem, Pa., wrote that she and her two daughters started a ritual called “drive to nowhere”: “We just got in the car and drove. We didn’t have a destination. We would take turns talking. Any topic was allowed in the privacy of our minivan. We truly bonded during these drives: mother-daughter bonding as well as sister-sister bonding between them.
“Now that life is returning to ‘normal,’ we try to continue these drives to nowhere each Sunday. It took a worldwide pandemic to teach us that we need to make time to talk and listen to each other.”
Judith Scavone of California wrote that she and her neighbors started a Friday outdoor happy hour and that they plan on continuing it: “This practice has turned our group of townhomes into a community. Our ages range from 89 to 1 year old. Liberals and conservatives, Christians, Hindus, atheists and Buddhists, we have become a community of caring people.”
Thank you for sharing so many of the practices that have sustained you in these past few years. May they help you flourish for years to come!
Have feedback? Send me a note at HarrisonWarrenemail@example.com.
Tish Harrison Warren (@Tish_H_Warren) is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and author of “Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep.”