I had waited a long time to take a picture like this. However, I got so wrapped up at the moment that I left my camera at home. So my smartphone camera would have to suffice.
There we all were 40, gray-headed old souls who finally, after more than a year of pandemic restrictions, gathered together to eat, laugh, and share. I had to capture the moment.
The group was our faith formation or Sunday school class. We had only met a couple of times via Zoom since March 2020. So to finally be meeting in person was a taste of heaven on earth.
As a group, we were all on the same page. We followed the recommended health restrictions issued and altered as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, morphed, and challenged global scientists and medical personnel.
Our hosts had moved to the Harrisonburg, Virginia area from Wayne County, Ohio a year before we moved from a neighboring Ohio county. They had invited the entire class to their rural home nestled into a hill and surrounded by forest and wildlife.
Storms were in the forecast, but this was a determined group. The desire to see each other face-to-face overtook any threat of severe thunderstorms.
Besides, we met in a sweeping semi-circle in our hosts’ expansive and sparkling clean garage. With east and west doors open, a welcome breeze kept us comfortable.
As the first people arrived, an orphaned fawn hobbled across the emerald grass and plopped down. Soon, it righted itself and wobbled into the woods, likely looking for its mother.
Cars arrived at steady intervals, which allowed some positive personal interaction as guests exited their vehicles. With all safely vaccinated, no face masks were required. The many smiles spoke volumes. Fist bumps and hugs abounded.
With the hosts providing the main course, half the class brought salads and the other half desserts. Typical for any Mennonite potluck, the offerings were tasty and satisfying. No one went away hungry.
After lunch, we all found our seats in the garage and began the organized sharing. First, the class coordinator asked each person to share briefly about their pandemic situations. Some spoke at length, while others said only a few words.
Several of the attendees live in a local retirement community with even tighter standards than those who lived independently. They were more than delighted to be sitting with this gray-headed crowd.
One man shared how he had lost all of his siblings. Some deaths were due to COVID-19, others from natural causes. Not being able to gather to mourn in the usual fashion compounded his grieving.
Some told of vacations and weddings canceled. Others beamed at finally physically reconnecting with family and meeting grandchildren, some for the first time.
The eldest of the group stole the show, however. When it was this stateman’s turn to share, Cal simply said, “I’m glad to be here,” parroting late-night TV show guests’ comments. Other one-liners had us all laughing with this soon-to-be 96-year-old.
A thundershower clipped through the conversations, but it didn’t deter these determined folks. The laughter, sharing, and caring continued right on through the distant rumbles of thunder.
We were all grateful for the opportunity to see, hear, and be together again in the flesh. But we were also very thankful for the church and political leaders who have guided us through this unwelcome pandemic storm.
The fellowship of like-minded friends is invaluable. Consequently, our bonding time ended in a grateful halleluiah prayer of thanksgiving.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2021
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