This COVID-19 saga is driving me mad. I am in the “danger zone” because of my age and so I never go out and feel like I am losing contact with the world around me. I wonder if there is any good that can come from this loneliness?
This question resonates with many who feel that their world is shrinking as they spend a lot more time alone. That is certainly true of those live by themselves. It is also true of people living in families who, nevertheless, feel isolated.
We are born into a social environment. This starts with family life and extends to many circles of friends throughout our lives. We have become accustomed to this interaction and feel troubled when it is curtailed.
Before the pandemic, because our lives were often hectic, we complained that we were not able to find time to be alone. Now that we are experiencing pandemic-induced separation, we panic because we realize that solitude can force us to face realities that our busy lives often obscure. How do we manage this aloneness?
It is interesting to read what the prophet Hosea says about the time his ancestors spent in the desert, isolated from their community. While we would expect the emphasis to be on the deprivations of desert life, Hosea recalls the experience as one of intimacy with God. He speaks of the absence of distractions and a complete dependence on God. Speaking for God, he says: “I will lead Israel into the desert and speak to her heart” (Hosea 2:16).
COVID-19 has put us into a kind of desert experience; one that is quieter, simpler and without much of what used to keep us busy. This presents us with a rare opportunity to communicate with God as one would with a best friend. With God, we can share our fears and hopes, our joys and sorrows.
This “pandemic aloneness” can provide an opportunity to look more deeply at aspects of our lives which hardly ever get our attention. For example, what are our goals? How do we pursue virtue and eliminate vice? How do we personally proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and the good news that people need to hear?
Israel’s desert experience enabled the people to understand how much they needed God and each other. Perhaps our own COVID-19 experience will enable us to better appreciate others who are also experiencing new challenges because of the pandemic. How enriched might we be if we spend a part of each day reaching out to others? Wellness checks on our neighbors and friends are a powerful means by which we change our aloneness into an outreach of love and caring.
After this pandemic is controlled and our lives return to some normality, and despite the losses we may have experienced, we will benefit eternally if we have used this time to grow closer to God and our neighbors.