Moments to live by in the Year of the Pandemic

BY ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN, Columnist
Posted 3/17/21

When the pandemic began one year ago, I started eating a handful of M&M’s every day after lunch. I’ve never had much of a craving for desserts, but now I look forward to this daily taste of …

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Moments to live by in the Year of the Pandemic

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Posted

When the pandemic began one year ago, I started eating a handful of M&M’s every day after lunch. I’ve never had much of a craving for desserts, but now I look forward to this daily taste of sweetness.

Throughout the pandemic, my wife and I have danced after supper with our three young children. Last summer, we had a phase when we boogied to the soundtrack of the musical “Hamilton.” But our children have returned to their favorite superhero theme songs: the “Superman” movie score by John Williams and the opening tune from the “Batman” TV show starring Adam West. Listening to those songs for the umpteenth time, I admit I was sometimes impatient to start the bedtime routine of bath and books.

But other nights have been so fun I’ve lost track of the hour. The way the kids help me stay in the moment is their superpower.

The church that I serve as pastor has developed new habits and routines in the pandemic as well. In addition to the online and outdoor worship services, we started a weekly prayer meeting with another congregation. In the beginning, everyone dialed into a conference call. Now, we meet every Sunday afternoon on a Zoom videoconference.

Our members are white; theirs are Black. The impetus for this ministry was last summer’s death of George Floyd under the knee of the white police officer.

I am under no illusions that we or any other white people are saviors. But I speak for many in our church when I say that we have been blessed by the faith of our Black friends.

One of their deacons opens our meeting with a hymn. He starts off almost in a whisper, then grows louder and stronger in his gravely baritone. This gentleman often sings spirituals like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Go Down, Moses,” and “Steal Away to Jesus.” These words and melodies have given Black people strength to endure and resist evils from the time of slavery down to the present reality of police brutality. This is the genius of the Black church. Writer Zora Neale Hurston once called such faith “an inside thing to live by.”

Recently, this faithful deacon belted out, “Count your blessings. Name them one by one.” When he had finished, the rest of us took turns sharing examples of unexpected grace that had come out of this pandemic, including the friendships made between our churches. We try to keep our meetings under an hour, but in listening to everyone’s blessings, I once again lost track of time.

By sharing these stories, I do not intend to diminish anyone’s suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. I realize many have faced economic hardships and lost loved ones to this terrible disease. Many of my own family members, friends and parishioners have been stressed, anxious or lonely. I would never tell someone in pain or grief to “count your blessings” or put on a happy face.

I share my stories to offer a little taste of what has helped me through these times. I have one more story:

During the pandemic, the creek that runs through the woods behind my neighborhood has been my family’s refuge. Several years ago, a large oak fell across the water from one side of the bank to the other. I have often sat on the fallen trunk, legs dangling over the creek, watching my kids play along the bank or in the water.

There have been plenty of times when I fretted about my to-do list. But other times, I have breathed slowly. And given thanks.

I hope we cross to the other side of this pandemic. As we journey ahead, I hope each of us finds our own “inside things to live by” — music that moves us, quiet places that still us, love that comforts and inspires us.

Just a little taste of sweetness can fill us with gratitude.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and author of Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems. He is currently working from home with his wife and three children.

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