This time has been awful and it’s been terrible and it sucks and I hate it… but it’s also been good. Here are 7 good things to come out of COVID season.
This truly has been an unprecedented time in our history. It hasn’t been quite as bad as the Black Death or other plagues of the past, but it has been pretty terrible. Multiple thousands dead, international and local borders shut and reopened and shut again, increasing cases every day, businesses and even entire industries brought to the verge of collapse, and then collapsing. Not to mention soaring unemployment, vaccines in question, riots, protests, #FakeNews and no end date in sight…
Of course, this is all the stuff you know already. We are repeatedly and constantly bombarding with COVID This and Coronavirus That at every hour of the day from every direction. Every news article, every restaurant update, every facet of our lives has been profoundly impacted by COVID-19.
So you must be thinking, maaan the person writing this post must have been one of the lucky ones. And while fortunately I haven’t contracted the virus myself, I can tell you it has been profoundly messing with my life. Prolonged times of not being able to see friends and loved ones in person, weddings and celebrations postponed or cancelled, and a career that was one minute in extreme demand and overwhelmed with additional overtime hours due to everyone being at home, to miscommunication flinging me into an oversaturated, low demand job market trying to lock down my next gig. On top of that, we had our hot water system blow its lid, our sound system die, our Bluray player short out, a car that needed some significant work done… just a whole bunch of stuff that all of a sudden needed replacing at the same time.
Now I’m sounding like one of those news reports you’ve been reading.
But in all of this craziness, I’ve gotta say, this season has also been good.
I think it’s been so easy to focus on all the negative that’s happening. After all, it seems like everyone else is. But the problem is eventually negativity turns to despair and hopelessness.
And I know I don’t want that for my own life. And I’m sure if you’re reading this that you don’t either.
So I thought it would be worthwhile to contribute a positive and hopeful voice in a world that is quickly running out of it. Here are 7 good things to come out of COVID season.
#1: Changed attitudes towards working from home
Maybe this is cause I’m in the IT industry, but I have to say I have loved how almost overnight, entire industries have had to adapt to working from home (if they can). Video conferencing, telecommuting and different styles of project management have been in place for several years to allow remote work to be as efficient as office work. And yet there had still been a prevailing attitude in the larger world that working from home is more “home” than “working”.
This turns out to not have been the case in the majority case.
One respected study pointed out people were actually being 47% more productive while working from home. And while I’m not sure it’s actually that much more efficient – I personally think you’d at least be breaking even – it sure makes a solid case for why we don’t all necessarily have to be in the same room, or at least not all the time.
Makes sense since most office workers just sit staring at their computer screen most of their office days anyway. Now they’re just doing the same thing in different rooms.
#2: More time for house projects
With an extra hour or so a day and the extra energy taken from commuting, I was able to get quite a bit done around the house. It’s slowed down a bit more recently, but we were able to put in a retractable clothesline, replace an old toilet cistern, do some light repainting, replace a 30 year old metal laundry sink that had rusted itself into the brick wall, and also do all the maintenance on the above sad song I sang in the opening paragraphs of this post.
Given the huge surge in profit and sales for companies like JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks, and Bunnings, I don’t think we were alone in using some of the extra time to get those tasks done that had been sitting waiting for quite a while.
Home is important. To quote an old saying that I can’t find the original author for, “Home is the starting place of love, hope and dreams”. Any chance to make it a better place is worth celebrating.
#3: More time for connection
It wasn’t just the workplace that saw a huge resurgence in the use of video and phone tools – it was everyone else too. Finally, all of us with Whatsapp, Messenger, Zoom, Skype, and Teams starting using these tools on a much more regular basis to keep up the connections when we weren’t allowed to see each other in person.
I know our church made really huge use of videoconferencing during this season and I am very grateful for that. It’s no surprise that COVID has been absolutely terrible for the state of people’s mental health, and having been through seasons of depression myself I know how hard it can be. So to have our regular friends and community maintaining its connection while the world was going to hell was an absolute lifesaver and incredibly uplifting – not to mention all the other people who we were able to stay in face-to-face touch with when we weren’t allowed to touch at all.
Now that everyone is familiar with Facetime, Google Meet, and all the other tools and tech mentioned already, it’s been easier than ever to stay connected, which has been really great. Indeed one of the good things to come out of COVID season, and will hopefully last well beyond it.
#4: Time for some good rest
A piece of advice I would always give people in a gap in their career or in their routine was that this may be the last holiday that you ever have. And this has been a piece of advice I have had to remind myself to take on board.
Being out of work and constantly applying for your next contract can be a lot of work – indeed as much as a full time job. I know during job hunting season I still do what I call “Fake Work” – wake up at normal time, get dressed like always, and go in front of my PC and hunt for work whilst keeping up some professional development – more on that later.
There’s also a lot of pressure in working out what life is going to look like for you next. But sometimes being too focused on it can ruin the opportunity to rest that sits in front of us.
Theologian Charles Spurgeon said this – “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength… It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less“.
Isn’t that true that having some time to rest enables us to reach out even further when the time comes?
The truth is for many of us, a lack of routine, employment, or opportunity is almost completely out of our control at the moment. I feel especially for those in the airline and tourism industries – they literally are not allowed to use their professional skills and who knows when they will be able to again? But I hope like I have been challenged myself, that you are able to find some room to rest and enjoy some time to breathe.
#5: Innovation and learning opportunities
I alluded to this before in my “Fake Work” exercise – I have been doing a lot of learning. When I worked for various IT consultancies, we would have what we would call Bench Time – time between contracts where we were expected to continue to upskill and grow our professional skillset – and I’ve been doing essentially the same thing. I have been keeping track of all of the new technology and software approaches I’ve been refreshing on or learning so far and it’s currently at around 66 distinct topics (and counting). I’ve also had some time to spruce up the blog a bit and a few other things around the place.
During “normal” life, I’m not sure how much of an opportunity I would have had, or made, to accomplish these things.
Moreover, keeping up routine and activity is super important to prevent lethargy and a sense of worthlessness that can quickly creep in by remaining completely idle (especially for men!). Rest and sloth are two different things after all.
I was inspired at the start of COVID season in Australia by the work of Isaac Newton. I have been familiar with his varied contributions to the world of physics through my school and university studies, but I had not realised he came up with a lot of this while in isolation due to Spanish flu.
I wonder what other opportunities you and I have to make and take in the potential good things to come out of COVID season?
#6: Remembering how much we have in common
I have a good friend in China who was keeping us in the loop of COVID as it was in its initial peak there. People walking around with those giant water bottles to protect their head and temperature guns on every corner. Fast forward a few months after that and the world outside started to look exactly the same. All of a sudden when the same lockdown and safety protocols are in effect, when people are out of work, and when a microscopic organism can literally ruin all our lives… it’s quite a bit of an equalizer.
And I think this has been a great reminder of one really powerful truth – you and I are mostly the same.
I remember learning via a Ted talk and confirming the research that all of us are indeed unique, but in our DNA, we are only 0.6% unique. If that’s true physically, I wonder if we can recognise how true that is emotionally, spiritually, intellectually?
We all have the same needs and desires. We all have dreams. We all need to be loved.
Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to remind us that in a world where we can become so obsessed with trying to be so different, to remember how much we are really the same. I think of the old prophet Elijah who shouted at the heavens how much that he was the only one going through what he was going through. But the returning voice reminded him that there were at least 7000 others like him.
One of the biggest lies we will ever believe is that we are the only ones going through this. That no one else could ever understand. That “I’m the only one“.
It is at this point that despair has absolutely won the human heart.
Don’t buy into the lie. You are not alone. You never were. You never have been. And you never will be.
#7: Being humbled
This is probably what I’ve hated the most, but also I guess one of the best things for me, is to eat some humble pie and to remember my place. It can be so easy in life to become familiar and even develop a sense of unhealthy entitlement about how things should be. About how much the world owes me, about how good I am, about how many times I’ve been headhunted and turned down so many offers blah blah blah.
At the end of the day, every truly good and perfect thing I have ever received or experienced in my life has been a gift. And it’s been a good season to swallow the pride and remember just how much grace has been given to me.
Being humbled is a very difficult thing, especially when it’s humility in your relationships, your bank account, your sense of value. But I think the humility brought about by this microscopic virus can also bring healing in amidst all the death.
Dr Henry Cloud wrote a book and did a teaching series called Necessary Endings. Absolutely fantastic. In it he does a deep dive into the Scriptural view on the power of pruning. Pruning is where you cut off branches from a healthy tree in order to bring about more fruit or stronger life. And it’s not just the dead things or the unhealthy things that need cutting away – sometimes it’s the healthy branches that are actually in the way of even further growth.
And doesn’t that feel so wrong when you see good things in your life cut away? It can even invoke a sense of failure. But if we can embrace the season and maintain our hope, it can only lead to life and more life on the other side.
If you and I can stay humble throughout it all. And maybe when it’s all said and done we can say like the psalmist that it was good for me that I was afflicted.
I don’t know how this season is treating you. Maybe you’ve read what I’ve been through during this season and you can’t relate at all because you’ve been relatively unaffected. Or maybe you read this having lost loved ones, significant amounts of investment, your business, or opportunities you have longed for for several years. Whatever the case may be, my main point in writing this semi-reflective piece is this – Don’t despair. Hold on to hope. Don’t throw this whole season away as a complete writeoff when it actually hasn’t been.
Seasons come and go. And like even the harshest winter must surrender to the presence of spring, so too this season will eventually end. May we be better for it and make the most of what really is a very difficult season.
How about you? How have you gone about navigating this time in history? What are some good things to come out of COVID season in your life?