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Light at end of tunnel

Jeninie Guido 

The Natchez Democrat

After a year of feeling cooped up and secluded, we’re starting to see the rest of the world again. I know having had both rounds of my COVID vaccination has helped ease the anxiety about being in public, being caught in a crowd, and, frankly, going to work each day.

When you work in the hospitality business, the idea of COVID is always lingering in the background. Where has that guest been? Who have they seen? Have they been exposed? Am I safe?

Last Spring at the beginning of the lockdown, I was working on a project with Natchez, Inc. to help spread words of encouragement in such dark and trying times. One of our interviews was with Father Scott Thomas and Father Mark Shoffner of St. Mary Basilica. The way they put what we were experiencing in terms of the Lenten season and the beginning of Easter helped put COVID in perspective.

A year later, I thought we’d revisit with Father Scott to see what the year has taught us and how this Easter season can be an opportunity to learn from ourselves. “Hopefully, COVID has helped us grow — a lot like Lent is supposed to do,” Father said. “Hopefully, COVID has helped us realize just how socially distant we really are as a society. We already were thanks to texting, social media, and many other things that have replaced in-person communication with something far less. But a year ago we just shut down and turned completely away from each other. Hopefully COVID has made us appreciate being in the company of others more.”

In terms of  how COVID and the Lenten season go hand in hand, the idea of giving things up has meant so much more this past year. “We Catholics see Lent as a time to do better in life. Whatever we give up should be something that we need to step away from in order to create more time for God, or it is something that we have been taking for granted and need to appreciate a lot more. A common belief is that you don’t really appreciate something until it is gone,” Father mentioned. “I certainly learned to appreciate good pizza, burgers, and other things a year ago as soon as everyone shut their doors.

“Hopefully, if and when everything ‘gets back to normal’, we will see the dignity of each person a bit more and the joy of being physically in their company. We shouldn’t be afraid of each other just because of some virus. Hopefully, as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Christ, we can bring ourselves out of the tomb of fear that we have locked ourselves in and build our community back up joyfully. When God created us, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ We aren’t created to be alone. We need each other. We need to see and hear each other.”

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