We’ve been experiencing COVID-19 shutdowns for long enough now that the days are starting to run together. With the first flurry of emotions and curiosity about what a “shutdown” would be like over, and no clear end in sight, now is a good time to take a look at the significance of this time. 

The places where things usually happen—social activities, sports, entertainment, dining, shopping, visiting, and even churches—are closed. Many of us find ourselves home all day, every day. Yes, working or studying perhaps, but still with more time on our hands and less ways of filling it than usual. 

This experience is unprecedented in recent memory and might have some of us wondering what to focus on during this time. Here are a few suggestions. 

1) Dream Small

Life teaches us to dream big. And there’s a place for that. But sometimes dreaming small helps too. Think of one or two simple things each day that are within your reach and can be a cause for gratitude or fulfillment. Let the smell of a cup of coffee, the spring breeze or colors of the sunset be enough to satisfy you. Rediscover grace in the little things and let them be a gateway to a moment of prayer, of connecting with our Creator, or of friendship shared with another. 

2) Nurture your Heart

With so many places of ordinary activity shut down, it’s a good time to remember that the human heart is another place where things happen. Profound things. Like love and conversion, healing and regeneration. While “social distancing,” we remain in intimate solitude with our own heart—something so close to us that it sometimes gets overlooked as we chase after other things. Now is a time to nurture our hearts, to appreciate conversations we wouldn’t have had, beauty we wouldn’t have seen, sounds we wouldn’t have heard. 

3) Live with the Questions

There are lots of unknowns. About jobs, homes, finances, sickness and health. What do we do with the anxieties we might have? One response is to speculate. But looking for answers too soon causes unnecessary worry as our imagination makes potential problems bigger than life. 

Sometimes living with the questions is the way to go, as German poet Rainer Rilke eloquently tells us: 

“Don’t search for the answers which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” (Letters to a Poet)

4) Realize Life while Living it

If Grover’s Corner (symbolic of small town American life) is an unknown name or distant memory from a high school literature class, now’s a good time to read Our Town and ponder a question Emily leaves us with: “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?” To which the stage manager responds: “No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.” 

With less time for some things, we now have more time for others, including a simple appreciation of life itself. This is a time for all to join the ranks of the saints and poets.