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Susan Ciancio considers some of the blessings families can find in the togetherness the pandemic has returned to them.

If you’re like me, you cringe every time someone says we’re living in a “new normal.” There is nothing normal about the way we have been living this year. This pandemic has wreaked havoc with our lives, our families, our jobs, school, and so much more. What we have been going through is decidedly not normal.

Yet, though the pandemic has had many negative effects on our society and on the economy, there are also many wonderful things that have come from it. We have learned a lot about ourselves, about our families, and about what’s truly important in life. And from that knowledge, we can derive a lot of good.

For instance, families are now spending more time together. We are learning to enjoy the time we have. We’re playing games, spending time outside, and learning new skills. We’re not rushing off to after-school events or commuting back and forth to work. Indeed, many families have become stronger because we have had to rely on each other.

We’re also learning to do things like take care of our elderly neighbors, get groceries for those who are sick, check on people who may be lonely, and to lend a hand to those who are struggling emotionally and financially. Through it all, we’re teaching our children that people — especially family — come first. And as a result, we’re building our communities and strengthening our families in Christ.

So while we hope and pray that this pandemic allows us to return soon to doing things in groups — going to concerts, ball games, movies, and other fun activities — we realize that there are some aspects of life we don’t want to go back to.

We don’t want to go back to rushing through our days barely seeing family members. We don’t want to forego dinner around the table for dinner out of a bag. We don’t want to go back to wondering what happened to our days, our weeks, or our months because everything is a blur. And we don’t want to wake up one day to find that we have wasted time, and our children are grown.

create a better new normal-SCiancio-2

That is why we must create a better new normal — a normal that takes us back to the fundamentals of family togetherness and of caring for our neighbors. This isn’t a new normal where we must live in fear, but a new normal where we live in hope. This isn’t a new normal where we feel afraid to hug people, but a new normal where we hold our families close and where we embrace our neighbors. This isn’t a new normal that makes us shy away from crowds, but a new normal that allows us to see and approach people as unique and valuable individuals. This isn’t a new normal that sees each member of the family in separate rooms at night, but a new normal that has everyone spending quality time together.

While we hope and pray that this pandemic allows us to return soon to doing things in groups, we realize that there are some aspects of life we don’t want to go back to. #catholicmom

So, as Christmas approaches, let us all reflect on this past year and stress the importance of family and community to our children. We can start a better new normal if we focus on giving of ourselves. Our children will appreciate gifts of time and events rather than material things that eventually get shoved in a dresser or buried in a closet.

As you look for gifts to wrap, look for gifts that foster togetherness, like board games, woodworking tools, new cooking implements, bikes, camping equipment, sports equipment, or anything that allows you to learn a new skill together. And while gifts of time cannot be wrapped, things that give clues about a special day or weekend trip to visit something they’ve always wanted to see — a historic site or a big city — can be wrapped.

There’s so much we can do that will help us maintain the closeness we should all feel as family. The possibilities are endless.

If there’s just one thing this year has taught us, it is that life is precious. Family is precious. None of us knows how much time we have left, so let us spend our time creating a better new normal that includes family, friends, togetherness, love, and the gift of time.

Copyright 2020 Susan Ciancio
Images (top to bottom): Alberto Cassetta (2017), Unsplash; Patricia Prudente (2019), Unsplash