Life has changed a lot in the last year. Little things like gathering and gratitude are what has made life more bearable. I’ve watched my beloved book club fall apart. It’s a highly structured group, with twelve members, and the coming year’s schedule is decided months beforehand. It’s been in existence for more than ten years. Now, we are down to seven members, and two only want to participate in in-person events. It’s so disheartening.
I understand feeling fatigued and burnt out from Covid. I have three young kids at home, two are not yet in school and one is working through first grade virtually. I’ve told my husband I feel like all the supports I had as a mom have been taken away AND I’ve been asked to do more.
Maybe that’s one reason I think book club is even MORE meaningful than ever. It’s a reason to gather with intelligent women to discuss great books. It’s a reason to see women I care about, and it’s something that makes me feel grateful. However, gathering on Zoom and the effects of 2020’s Covid burnout have shrunk the group to nearly half its original size.
The Loss of Gathering
I would assume you’ve lost similar gatherings in your life because of the pandemic. The losses are more profound when we realize that so many of our relationships are based on the common thread of time and places we share.
Without the elementary school’s daily pick up, I don’t get to see the women I am closest to. Without dance class, I don’t have my weekly chat with the other dance moms (who are AMAZING and nothing like the show). I miss seeing other women at church. I miss seeing my friends at the gym. I miss the woman I carpooled with to preschool and our driveway chats while we exchanged kids. These tiny moments add up.
As these moments have disappeared from my life, a different opportunity arose. On Easter Sunday, my mom suggested our family gather on Zoom for a church meeting. I volunteered to speak when my mom asked. Preparing and sharing this talk with my family made it the best Easter I could remember. We enjoyed it so much and got so much out of it; we decided to gather the next Sunday and then again.
We slowly added to the ranks: my grandparents, family friends, “Aunt Ros” and Roy, and my aunt. Then my mom sent out an ongoing Zoom meeting invitation, which ran until June. I had hoped we’d be back to “real life” by then and was a little depressed to see the end was nowhere in sight.
June came and went. July, August — you know, you lived it too. It’s now February, and we still meet on Zoom each week. My brother-in-law has joined us from his patrol car, my sister from a solo trip to Philadelphia, and part of a family from a beach trip. Some of us now attend church in person, some of us Zoom to our ward’s sacrament meeting, but we all still gather weekly for our family meeting.
I found myself looking forward to Sundays. I was preparing more during my weekly study of the discussion material and diving deeper into the scriptures. Podcasts came into the mix to deepen my understanding. Meeting together in a smaller group meant that we all needed to contribute to the Come, Follow Me discussion. No longer could I passively sit by in a Sunday school class as the teacher asked questions. I also felt safe voicing my thoughts, ideas, and opinions with people who loved and supported me.
We take turns leading the meetings, including assignments for Primary lessons and Come, Follow Me discussions. At Christmas, we had a special meeting where each family shared a special musical number. There have been testimony meetings, talks, and object lessons. We sing together; we pray together. We encourage the kids and adults to do the actions to songs or get involved in reenacting stories. We’ve stayed on after the official church meeting is over to chat and visit with one another, showing off missing teeth and new pets. A few weeks ago, we discussed racism, which was valuable, and incredibly moving.
Yet, not all meetings are stellar. The discussion doesn’t always go deep, or people don’t comment much. There have been numerous times where people mute their mics to discipline their children. One week during church, my three-year-old niece found a nail polish bottle and painted her baby doll. Another time I was giving a talk, and my two-year-old was climbing the toilet and fell off. I had to pause my remarks and comfort her.
There are weeks that the host family has forgotten they were in charge, including me. I’m grateful that these meetings still came together, and we were able to gather anyway. We’ve had technical issues and internet outages. We’ve had lessons where kids run off crying. Things don’t have to be perfect for us to find the benefits of gathering and gratitude.
Gathering and Gratitude
Why has this meeting been so successful? Why have we continued to meet after eleven months? I’ve recognized that gathering on Zoom for our church meetings is the biggest blessing in my life to come from the pandemic. Not only does it allow for more in-depth discussions and understanding, but it also gives us opportunities to serve and teach. Our family connects over these meetings, and our love grows. I am GRATEFUL for this gathering. I’m grateful for the time each of us spent in preparing the lessons and talks. I’m thankful we consecrate this time together.
I intentionally show up week after week to get my cup filled, spiritually and emotionally. I choose to gather with these loved ones, and I recognize it is a privilege to do so. While some might question the Hamilton sentiment, “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” I’m so lucky (blessed!) to be alive in this time, where we can gather on Zoom, where we can get our cup filled while staying at home.
The more I express my gratitude for this gathering, my joy increases. Oliver Cowdery wrote, “These were days never to be forgotten” and I echo this thought about our days. Gathering on Zoom for church has allowed me to find gratitude in these never to be forgotten days.
So I ask you, look around, look around at how lucky YOU are to be alive right now? What blessings have come as you have gathered virtually? How have you practiced gratitude for these gatherings?