Column by Sarah Farabaugh
I miss the Eucharist. I miss going to Mass. I miss hearing happy news. I miss my family. I miss my neighbors. I miss my friends.
The list of things negatively impacted in my life by the pandemic could go on. Having my college classes switched to online is another thing I could add to the list. Slow internet, misunderstanding teacher directions, and not being able to study with friends in person made the last few weeks of my semester difficult. But then I step back and think – how many people have it worse? I am lucky I even have internet, that my professors kept in touch and gave directions, and that I could study with friends on the phone. How can I get angry or upset when the virus has affected so many others in much more challenging ways? People have lost their jobs, businesses, financial resources, and family members. Weddings have been postponed; graduations, musicals, concerts, sports seasons, and vacations have been cancelled. I can complain about the things in my life that have been affected, or I can count my blessings. The song Counting Every Blessing by Rend Collective comes to mind when I get caught up focusing on the bad things. The lyrics “Letting go and trusting when I cannot see… You are so good to me…I am blessed beyond all measure” run in my head. I truly am blessed beyond all measure.
But it is easy to forget that, and this pandemic has helped me step back and appreciate the things I once took for granted. In this way, I realize my dependence on God instead of depending on the things of this world. I trust in God that there is good from every situation, although sometimes it is hard to see. “Letting go and trusting when I cannot see…” I have learned that no matter how much I complain, how much I worry, or how hard I try, there are some things out of my control and I just need to let God handle it even if I cannot see. But when I step back and look, I really can see. I see the direct benefit of every one of the grievances in my list. Instead of counting the inconveniences, I can turn it around and count the blessings.
I miss the Eucharist. The saying, “You don’t miss something until it’s gone” rings true. I have a much greater appreciation for the Body of Christ now that I do not have the option to receive every Sunday. Have you ever expected a gift and then were not grateful when you received it? If I expect to receive the Eucharist every Sunday, I may not be as grateful because I take it for granted. Now I truly realize how special the gift of Jesus’ Body is and cannot wait to receive again.
I miss going to Mass. As I watch Mass from my living room, I can ponder the basic reasons for why we attend Mass and the actions we do there. It is so easy to go through the motions at Church, saying the prayers and singing the songs is something I do without a second thought. But it seems a little out of place to do in our living room, which causes me to think deeper. My family still dresses up in ties and dresses to watch Mass together, which reminds me how special it is to receive Jesus’ message no matter where you are. When I attended Mass at Church it could be very easy to forget to “bring home” the message. Now, there should be no excuse for me not to bring home the message because it is experienced right in our home. It is nice to welcome Jesus and His message into our house on a more intense level instead of thinking as if it is only something to be done within the Church walls.
I miss hearing happy news. I have learned we just have to make our own happy news. In my little town, people are taking time and effort to recognize special days. For a woman’s 90th birthday a few days ago, firetrucks, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and tractors all paraded past her house to wish her a happy birthday. A man who came home from cancer treatment at the hospital had a parade of over 50 vehicles pass his house. What started as a few close family members quickly became a full scale parade as word spread around town, it was even shown on the local news. I appreciated watching this happy event on TV amidst all the depressing news and am amazed at people’s ability to make their own happy news.
I miss my family. Although there are days it is certainly challenging to be grateful for my six younger siblings when we are all cooped up under the same roof getting on each other’s nerves, through watching Mass and praying the rosary we have become much closer as a family. When we had school, sports, and activities my mom was the taxi service, constantly shuttling kids around. We made time for family meals, which consisted of praying quickly, scarfing down as much food as possible in five minutes, then going off to homework or practice. Now, it is common for us to sit around the table after we are done eating and simply talk to one another. I have also grown closer to my extended family even though we have not had a party in two months. I used to think of parties as buying presents, making food, and dressing up, but forgot the reason and benefit of getting together. Usually at parties I barely even got to talk with my little cousins except when they yelled “Excuse me!” as they playfully ran past or “Thank you!” as they opened presents amid shouts and flying wrapping paper. Over the past two months, when one of my cousins had a birthday, my siblings and I called to sing to them. Then I got to talk to my cousin one-on-one and listen as they excitedly recounted the events of the day and how hard their family worked to make it special. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to get to know them better through these conversations. I cannot wait for the next party to spend time with my loud, crazy family, because that is the real reason for parties – spending time with the ones you love.
I miss my neighbors. During these parades, as I hear the horns honk, see the homemade signs, and wave to the people from a distance, I feel closer to my neighbors now more than ever. As I watch the line of vehicles filled with people going out of their way to make someone’s day special, I knew I wanted to do the same but could not put together a parade for every person who might need it. So, I decided to make cards. I simply call the unofficial mayor of Nicktown and ask who could use a little card to cheer them up. The simple act of making these thinking of you cards with positive messages to brighten others’ days certainly cheers me up too! I am amazed at the phone calls and thank you letters I receive in return for the little act of sending a card. In this way, I feel like I am making my own happy news and staying connected with my neighbors better than ever before.
I miss my friends. When I was in school and saw my friends every day, it was easy to take them for granted. These days I appreciate a hug or a knowing smile so much more. But for now, I have come to realize how important a long phone conversation or a quick text is. Although I have never been good at texting, I now realize what a simple “Hey how are you?” text can do to connect with a friend. It takes more effort to stay in touch this way, and remembering to call or text goes a long way. The saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is definitely true. I no longer take them for granted and appreciate everyone of them.
Despite the difficulties and doubts surrounding me during this time, I keep my thoughts on God by appreciating the things I once took for granted. There is a picture frame in our living room that says Counting Our Blessings. As I watch Mass with my family it is a gentle reminder to depend on God and appreciate the blessings He showers down on me all the time. It just took my world to be flipped for me to realize this – and now I can turn my words around.
I am grateful for the Eucharist. I am grateful for going to Mass. I am grateful for hearing happy news. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my neighbors. I am grateful for my friends.
Sarah Farabaugh, a member of Saint Nicholas Parish in Nicktown, attends the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. She is a graduate of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg.