“…and this will be realized in their living together…”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

For many of us the external constraint to remain at home has come to an end. A retrospective glance is perhaps in order.

For a moment I am going to abstract from the surrounding circumstances of trouble, travail, and suffering. For some there will be ongoing wounds from the last few months, whether in the death, sickness, or injury of a loved one, the turmoil of social unrest, loss of work, or financial setback. We can seek healing through compassion and solidarity in working for the true good of those around us and the broader community.

The effects of the COVID 19 situation in my own life—and here I mean simply those effects immediately discernible in my family’s daily life, abstracting from broader and still-ongoing serious issues—have already shown themselves to be a blessing in disguise. My situation was rather unique, even idyllic, but nonetheless perhaps has some common features.

In short, having traveled to Italy for a ‘sabbatical’ (we’d planned every detail for years) just prior to the serious outbreak, we got locked down in a very comfortable home on a Tuscan mountainside ten days after arriving in Rome. Instead of a month in that home making day trips to Tuscan sites of interest, we spent two and a half months in complete quarantine. I alone left to drive into town to buy food, while my wife and children remained at the home compound, with some limited hiking available.

So we had a very intense version of forced time at ‘home’ together. In some ways, this was wonderful, to be forced to stay in such a beautiful place. We certainly had our moments of fear, disappointment and deep frustration—especially when we thought about all the things we had planned to do. Yet this was very little to complain of compared to so many other people.

What do I see in retrospect? We had a unique, and perhaps unrepeatable, opportunity to try to live as a family. Every day. For us, the blessing was not so much in the lessons learned, or in the particular projects we accomplished. The enduring gift of this experience will be the time we had together.

Wherever we go or whatever we do in the future, that precious time so marked by being shared-time will always come with us. There are a number of things I wish I had done differently and situations to which I should have responded better. Yet nonetheless we were together, and we knew it, and we forged something that can remain.

Re-entering the hurly-burly of the ‘normal’ situation of our life, we must learn to be together in a very different context with its own set of challenges. Yet I am convinced that we can take with us some precious fruits of this unusual time.

Perhaps the last few months have given all of us, each according to our own circumstances, an opportunity to reflect on and renew our life in our home. Perhaps there are new ways we have discovered to be present to one another and to work together, putting a priority on these relationships. Such a fruit does not cancel the sufferings, the failures, and the ongoing problems. But it can give a whole new context of meaning, and reason for hope and gratitude.

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