Recently, I was asked a startlingly challenging question: what have I learned from the pandemic? On one level the question is simply unanswerable: like everyone else, my life and vocation have transformed in every way in real time over the past year. It would be impossible to even begin to articulate the skill sets and information I have acquired since last March.
Nevertheless, my wife might point out that I am still woefully imperfect in almost all of the same ways that I was before the pandemic. Also, our country remains bitterly divided on almost every issue, and systems remain in place that prioritize the few over the many. As vaccinations enable our lives to slowly return to normal, I find no more confidence that a post-pandemic society will find in us the capabilities to address these complex issues.
During the funeral rite in the Episcopal Church, the officiating priest uses the words “for to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended,” because we believe that death does not have the last word, God does. Hate does not have the last word, love does.
One thing I have learned during the past year is that the pandemic will not have the last word. Nor will racism, xenophobia, inequality, or any of the other human constructs that divide us from those who differ.
So, what have I learned from the pandemic? I’ve learned that the pandemic will not have the last word. I am also reminded that whatever changes and challenges next arise, I—and we—have more in us than we think if we are able to come together and communicate.