By: Katie Choi
Some of my work mates and I are back in the office. I don’t want to speak for all of them, but I think we are in agreement in that we are really thankful to be back. We are enjoying being around other people and each other and are figuring out the rhythm of working in an office again. We are appreciating seeing other coworkers and the small conversations that come with passing someone by in the hallway. A ‘hello’ in the kitchen. A ‘how are you’ in the parking lot. Small interactions of connection that were perhaps once taken for granted, now given a new sense of appreciation. But, even those things do not exist in a completely pure form. These days, things feel like they have a catch.
Questions I think about a lot right now:
How do you love others well when we are all experiencing this pandemic for the first time together? How do you make thoughtful decisions to protect yourself and others around you without judgment if others choose differently? How do you navigate from one scenario to the next when everything presents different circumstances and nuance? How do you know what the right decision is?
Answer to the questions above questions:
I don’t know.
Anybody with me on this? Even as I find myself saying “I don’t know,” I also find myself having a lot of opinions and feelings about all this. Things like masks, social distancing, what to say yes to and what to say no to. At times, I can feel really justified in my answers and think I’ve solved the puzzle and figured it out. Then I talk to someone, those feelings of confidence shift, and I question everything all over again. I also find myself saying ‘yes’ to things that feel like they serve me well, but ‘no’ to things that might stretch me a little or make me sacrifice something like my time or make me unsure about what I can expect. This isn’t going to go away soon.
So what do we do? Most of us have had to start making some tough decisions with re-entry into the world. Decisions you aren’t forced to make when everyone is at home. What are the right answers? Like in weeks past, I think this post will leave you with more questions than direct answers, but here are some things that I am thinking about.
Sometimes being direct can feel scary, but what better way to navigate some of this than to ask the right questions? Ask people what they feel comfortable with. Sometimes if this makes me feel strange, I think about how I would feel if someone asked me the same question. For example, think about if someone comes over to where you live. They walk in and ask you your preference on if they should take their shoes off. Does that seem off putting to you? No, that feels thoughtful. They are considering your feelings and opinions on if you like shoes in your living space. Think about this in the same way and love people in this way. It also takes the guess work out of a lot of stuff when you are direct. Then you aren’t in your head, full of assumptions or not giving your friend credit by creating a false narrative. Talk about it. Ask questions, be willing to receive an honest answer, and go from there. Don’t put undue stress on yourself by wondering.
Then, think about this on the flip side. Set expectations for others. Tell them how you are feeling, and what you are comfortable with. Tell people you want everyone to wear masks if people are gathering together. Tell them that you don’t feel comfortable hugging. If someone invites you out to eat, tell them that you don’t want to go to a restaurant, but you would love to get take out and sit outside somewhere and eat. Let others love you well by being honest and setting expectations for success.
Another way I am thinking about this is through the example of listening to a sermon. I am sure you have heard this said when you are at church, and you are hearing some great wisdom and you have one person in mind and you are thinking something like “I wish so and so could be here right now to hear this.” This ring a bell? Instead of taking that wisdom and applying it to your own life, you sit there trying to fix someone else’s flaws. I also think about this for prayer. Let’s just say that I am spending some time in prayer, and I am praying for my husband, Ben, and asking God to help him with his forgetfulness. Maybe instead of doing that, I should change that up and come at it from the angle of asking God to give me patience and love when I talk to Ben. (Purely, purely an example.) Maybe, we could apply that same thinking to right now. Instead of hoping that everyone else behave in a certain way or read this certain article or take this one stance, we can ask for prayers for our own behavior. To focus on our own hearts. We can ask for guidance and direction in our days so that we can reflect loving others in the same way Jesus did.
I know these words aren’t enough and that it might make things seem simpler than they are in reality. I know that and I wish things were different. I wish I had all the answers or that I knew someone else that had all the answers that I could pass along to you. I am right there with you in praying for simpler times. Right now, I want people to assume the best in me. I want them assume I am being thoughtful and making the best decisions for my family. Let’s give that same gift to others. Luke 6:31 tells us that, “and as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” John 13:34 says it a little differently, “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” These things we believe to be true. We can cling to these words, believe them, remind ourselves of them when we forget, and follow their instruction. I am praying with you and for you and wishing you peace.