What a confusing time we are in. While blessed with the opportunity to reflect on this piece of living history, we also face the challenge of navigating our way through uncharted territory and all we can do is place our hope in those who know best and put our trust in God…
Lives have changed so much in recent months, when an uninvited gust of fear swept through our land forcing us to retreat to a place of safety. Much has been lost. Plans have been cancelled. Events marked on calendars have not happened. Long awaited visitors did not arrive. Busy playgrounds have been stilled and noisy classrooms have been hushed. Teachers diligently moved without haste, to devise plans which would support pupil learning at home. Key workers heroically turned up for each shift and doctors and nurses cared for our most vulnerable. Heartfelt words filled with concern and compassion, some spoken and some not, were exchanged within communities as people entrusted each other to Jesus by uttering the words ‘God bless you.’ All the while, exams were not sat, races were not run and medals were not awarded.
Our priorities changed. No longer preoccupied and busy with storing up our earthly possessions some of us were gifted with time and had the opportunity to reflect. As the days became weeks and the weeks turned into months, we all had to adapt to a new normal. Kindness, compassion and care grew out of the stillness. In our darkest hour, our greatest treasure became our family, friends and our trust in God. Hiding in the unnerving shadow of those daily news briefings some of us even dared to whisper prayers of thanks for the unexpected gifts which this new normal began to offer. In the midst of such loss, we realised there was much to gain. New skills were learnt and old hobbies were reborn. Children made memories which they will treasure into adulthood, while parents learnt how to play and have fun with their young. New recipes were tried and seeds were planted. Fences were mended and newly fertilised lawns never looked greener. Letters were written and old friends were called. ICT skills were developed with our silver haired daddies admitting that technology is not so bad after all. While images captured by church webcams around the country became a projected feature in our homes.
In the midst of this time, which is filled with so much anxiety and uncertainty, can we dare suggest that we have been offered a gift? Is it possible that the separation we endured may have ignited an awareness and a realisation of what real treasure is? Jesus tells us that, ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21). Recent months have shown us that when plunged into darkness we needed kindness, compassion and people need people. Walking along the quiet school corridor the teacher knows that the school’s greatest treasure is missing. The child who scans the empty playground knows that there is no treasure to be found. Have we learnt that it is our friendship with Jesus, the one who we place all our trust in, and our relationship with others that is the real treasure in this life?
Let us pray that we use the gift of awareness which we have been offered at this time and we don’t return to our old ways. Let’s not store up earthly possessions but instead gather and care for those treasures which have been sent from heaven.
Catherine McGonagle is a teacher in Knockavoe Special School, Strabane and a member of the Derry Diocesan Youth Commission