Social distancing, that is, keeping physically apart from each other in public places to prevent the virus from spreading, is one of the consequences of COVID-19 with which we have to learn to live.
During these months of quarantine, I sent a video to greet the students in our schools. In the video, I asked them to share with me their experiences during this time of confinement, of staying home. I never thought that my request would be so well received, as many letters and videos arrived in response. What conclusions can I draw from all those letters and videos?
- As I said before, the response was huge.
- What great joy I felt while reading those letters and watching those videos!
- I did not anticipate the work that would be involved, for my assistant and me, in writing to each person who sent a response.
- The common thread in the responses was composed of:
- Students greatly miss their friends and teachers.
- They also miss playing sports – soccer is the one most frequently mentioned.
- Students said they don't have stress now. That comment was surprising because of their age.
- They pray as a family, but they miss being able to go to Mass.
- The most salient comment, practically in all the responses, was that now they have family life: they see their parents together; they eat as a family, and they enjoy having their dad around at home.
Before the coronavirus arrived, there was no quarantine, however, people were living social distance within their families. Why? Primarily because of work and the myriad kids’ extracurricular activities, the family learned, or got used to, living at a distance, with the stress of “running around,” where the time to share, practically gone, was reduced to quality time. The parents had become Uber drivers for their kids, and there no longer was time to sit at the table and share experiences. There was no quarantine, but there was family-distance. Something was missing!
A virus, something invisible to the human eye, made the whole world pause and press on the brakes. In one short moment, everything stopped and priorities changed. The coronavirus forced us to shut ourselves in and to break that family-distance: to reunite in the daily sharing during meals around the table. In the middle of the current restrictions, what a blessing it is to have the family together again – sharing and enjoying each other’s company!
I believe this is a lesson that we should not forget, lest we return to what we used to do – when the first thing was work and money, sports, etc., and lastly the family.
Great efforts are already underway to find a vaccine against COVID-19. Let's keep praying and asking God for this miracle. On the other hand, we are very concerned about today’s society and the violence in which we live: problems of addiction and suicides in teens and young people. Studies seek to find the "why" of all this is, but no matter how many studies are done, no reason can be found. The problem is that many don’t want to recognize the root of the problem: the attack on the family and the attempts to destroy it.
The family is the foundation and basis of society. If we want to have a healthy society, free of that other virus that is sin, we must recognize that the only antidote is to have healthy families. This only can be achieved by protecting the family. The family is the first school where love, sharing, and respect are learned, and, also, where each member understands his or her integral role within the family, and is no such thing as a “spare tire.”
Then, how do we protect the family? It’s basic: protecting the family implies learning to sacrifice self for the good of the children and for the good of the parents, for the benefit of society and of creation. We cannot continue living in a culture of waste, where human beings and the family are discarded.
Now we see children playing, and we hear their talking at the top of their lungs; we also see families walking together through neighborhoods and neighbors playing for fun rather than in competition. Today “life” is seen and felt in the neighborhoods – the same places which, before the quarantine, seemed like ghost towns. How beautiful it is to see “life,” to discover God in our neighbor, and in Love.
Let us not allow the children to lose the gift of the presence of their parents and let us not hide behind the excuse of quality time so as to calm the conscience. Simply put, everyone – without exception – needs “time with family” to learn Love. Hence, we will achieve a more just and healthy society, more free from the virus that destroys and damages that is sin.
The family that prays together stays together.