Two events in the last week make me wonder what this life business really all about. The first I was working in the courtyard of the condo where I live here on the north side of Chicago, weeding. I have been doing this for the last two weeks—the courtyard is rather large and has lots of weeds, we have no grass, but only trees and shade-loving plants and weeds, weeds, weeds. This particular morning a young couple who I did not recognize got out of their car with their baby. The man came over to me and started thanking me profusely and telling me that I made him feel guilty. Evidently, he’d been watching me these past couple of weeks. Anyway, I assured him, that this is what old retired people must do. It makes us feel more part of the community. I am just happy to be able to contribute to our common good. This led to more sharing, he introduced me to his wife. We got to know each other and I proceeded to really enjoy what I had been doing.
The second event also involved a conversation. A friend called on the phone to ask how I was enjoying our prayer time together. I assured him that this COVID-19, which brought on our new way of praying together, for me has been a true blessing. I rediscovered “my” prayer community, one that I really haven’t been a meaningful part of since the 1980’s when I left the northwest side of the city and moved into the city.
Only upon reflecting on these two events did I realize how essential for me are community and prayer.
Somewhere in the family archives, I think my brother Dave has it, is a picture of my parents on their honeymoon with my father a whip in his hand and my mother sitting next to him. They are in a horse-drawn buggy for two in front of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in the year 1934, the middle of the Depression here in the U S. This picture points to an anomaly. While my parents both came from families familiar and comfortable with horses and the era before the invention of the automobile. My father was the first one to drive a motor-driven milk wagon for the local dairy where his father was the vet who took care of the horses. My father was an early adopter with new technology, and yet very comfortable with the old ways as well.
People who know me, know that I have been a proponent for online since the early 2000s, largely due to my experience of working with boys with special needs who seemed to thrive online in comparison to face-to-face settings. Now, that the rest of the world seems to have awakened to this rather new technology (actually, I first participated in an online video conference in the early 1980s) I find myself going back to the horse and buggy era and enjoying it. I’m baking bread, working in the garden, and yes, sheltering in place.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.