According to several different polls, I live in one of the world’s happiest places. Where I live, people greet each other in elevators, doctors give you a kiss on the cheek, a meeting stops to welcome the late arriver, and everyone is, well, just plain friendly.
That was until COVID-19 arrived. The usual greeting of a kiss turned into an elbow bump, and we were instructed to keep two meters away from others. As I walked down my street today, I saw a couple coming toward me. Instead of the usual “Hola,” they quietly slipped masks over their mouths and looked the other way as we passed. I wanted to scream, “This can’t be! We can’t let this virus steal our joy!”
In my family of origin we celebrated holidays with gusto. There were chocolates on Valentine’s Day, green cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day, and flowers in construction paper cones left on doorsteps for May Day. My love for fun moved overseas with me. In fact, my little family of three called ourselves “The Fun Family.”
As the pandemic moved from weeks to months with no end in sight, to keep myself from slipping into doom, I began celebrating in small ways. I began “cooking around the world” with recipes from foreign countries. I posted pictures on Facebook and began soliciting ideas. From French pain au chocolat to Polish Pancakes, my husband was the great benefactor of my culinary creations. But I wanted to expand the celebrating to include those outside of my four walls.
First, I tried painting mouse whiskers on my face mask but no one smiled. Next, I went to the grocery store with the whisker mask and the addition of mouse ears. Still not one person laughed. What had happened to my fellow inhabitants of one of the happiest places on earth? What could be done to bring joy back into our lives? I thought and I prayed. And God answered.
It started with Easter. The loss of Easter dinner at our house was more than this holiday lover could bear. So, my husband and I delivered colored eggs and chocolates to many friends who would normally come to our house. Then I heard about a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, but of course they could go nowhere. My plan to take them a candlelight dinner that included sparkling grape juice in goblets failed when the supermarket didn’t have any sparkling grape juice. But God gave me Plan B, and I mixed yogurt/granola parfaits in those goblets and delivered an anniversary brunch complete with leftover heart napkins from Valentine’s Day. As I watched these little surprise celebrations bring joy to others, my spirits lifted.
Because of the social distancing, the Bible study I lead switched to Zoom. The missing element with Zoom, however, is the cafecito fellowship time. So to celebrate the completion of our study of Philippians, an hour before our Zoom call, I delivered a “tea party” to the ladies complete with dainty finger sandwiches and sweets plated on the only pack of pretty paper-ware left from my last trip to the U.S. I told the ladies to wait until our call together to share in the goodies. As the women lifted the plastic wrap to reveal the treats, I celebrated as they examined and exclaimed over each item. Thanks, God, for your creative ideas!
And on it goes. I have delivered a Corona Birthday Party Kit complete with mask, hand gel and photo cut-outs on sticks of my husband and me as the party attendees. Flowers and scones went to my pastor’s wife on her birthday and a meatloaf cake with mashed potato icing for a gal that is part of a group of young women that I mentor. My husband chauffeured me to deliver the meatloaf one day before her birthday because of driving restrictions, but it was all in God’s plan. When we arrived with the surprise, she told us that she had been crying that morning as she was anticipating such a sad birthday the next day without her tradition of eating cake with relatives. I told her that this was God’s way of reminding her that he loved her.
Praying for ways to bless others while we are all stuck at home has given me something to focus on outside of myself. As I plan and bake and wrap gifts many days ahead, I begin celebrating and anticipating the joy I will see on the faces of the recipients.
On my birthday I settled in for a lonely day of social distancing at home, but this time the tables turned. At 10 a.m. a friend surprised me with a plate of homemade cannoli, an Italian ricotta cheese filled pastry. At noon two of my Bible study ladies arrived with flowers, lunch and a cake. Around 2 p.m. the Corona Birthday Party Kit recipient arrived donned with a mask and her beginner level guitar-playing to serenade me at the door with a terrible but lovely rendition of Happy Birthday. Joy and celebration is contagious and the coronavirus is not stealing it from us! As we look beyond the situation we are in and find ways to bless others, we will truly experience what it means to live in the Happiest Place in the World.
How have you blessed others during this time of social distancing and isolation?