Unexpected Blessings: Finding Inspiration in Community

From birthday parades to Zoom meetups, these four stories highlight creative ways people are coming together during the pandemic.

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The Dyson family celebrating the 16th birthday.

The Birthday Parade
Pat Dyson from Beaumont, Texas

My grandson Ty has always been very quiet and reserved, but dealing with a chronic illness that has kept him mostly housebound for the past three years has made him even more so. On Christmas, in anticipation of Ty’s 16th birthday coming up in April, his parents gave him a truck. Driving around town with a learner's permit accompanied by his dad was such a huge deal to Ty—not only was he out of the house, but he was out on the town! He couldn't wait to turn 16 and get his license. Our large extended family planned a party to celebrate, but of course, by the time his birthday rolled around, the driver's license bureau was closed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

What a big disappointment that was for everyone. Then I had an idea: if we couldn’t all be in the same room to give Ty a party, we’d give him a birthday parade! When the day rolled around, Ty was holed up in his room, despondent about both his license and the canceled party until his mom got him outside on some pretense. Three SUVs and a truck loaded with a ragtag bunch of 16 grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins honked and hollered in the street. Ty was surprised beyond words, and grinning from ear to ear. I’d never seen my grandson so animated.

We piled out of our cars into the yard, and keeping a six-foot distance between us, sang “Happy Birthday,” led by Ty’s grandfather Jerry on the trumpet. We took a family picture and laid Ty’s gifts out on the grass, then loaded back up to finish our little birthday parade. You never know when and how the Lord is going to bless you, but the most unexpected blessing of all was how much our unusual celebration brought Ty out of his shell. Honk, honk, holler, holler indeed!

An Unopened Christmas Card
Roberta Messner from Huntington, West Virginia

It was the only time in four decades of nursing that I’d had such a terrible problem with a colleague. Rita seemed to despise me and I had no idea why. Every kindness I extended backfired. Our relationship was so impossibly bad, I didn't even pray about it.

Now it was eight years later and I was retired from nursing, and certainly retired from ever thinking about that troublesome coworker. Covid-19 had hit us all like a ton of bricks and even my town of Huntington had sold out of protective masks. I searched for a box of hospital-grade masks I had left over; I just knew those masks were in the box by my desk. Well, I didn't find the masks, but I found some old, unopened mail—a Christmas card—I'd inadvertently tucked near some reference materials a year ago. That kind of thing is always a treat to find, but the return address said Florida and I couldn't figure who I knew there.

I opened the envelope and read the card in astonishment—it was from Rita. “Please forgive me for being such a Grinch,” she wrote, adding that I would always be her "RO'BEST'A," the name the delivery guy from the Chinese restaurant always wrote on my order. A wave of love and forgiveness washed over me. I'm not really a texter because of a problem with my hands, but there at 11:30 p.m., I typed out an emotional, of-the-moment message assuring her that there was no cause for concern, no need for forgiveness because there is only love and gratitude for the mercy and miracles of God.

In a matter of seconds, I received a text back. Rita was over the moon with joy. She said that this reconciliation—and my physical healing—had been her constant prayer. Boy, that was unexpected, I thought, but then again with God nothing is really ever that unexpected, is it?

A New Way of Connecting
Rebecca Chamaa from San Diego, California

As a person who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, I frequently feel isolated and disconnected from the support and resources others routinely receive. But during the recent stay-at-home mandate, people have been meeting by using Zoom, Skype and Messenger meet-up. This new development has allowed me to participate in events, both personal and professional, that would have been otherwise impossible due to the difficulties I usually experience traveling.

I recently attended an online training that was originally scheduled in Los Angeles and a Zoom workshop that would have required traveling to Hawaii. I shared a video brunch with a group of friends, each of us preparing food and eating together on Skype. While the pandemic is stressful and heartbreaking for us all, the silver lining for me is the creative solutions for getting together that have given me more support and contact than I’ve had in years.

A Lost Friendship Found
Rebekkah Hogsett from Huntington, West Virginia

Many years ago, I befriended a homeless Vietnam veteran named Russell who used to push his cart up and down U.S. Rt 60 near the McDonald’s. Then about ten years ago, Russell disappeared. I wondered and worried, often checking the restaurant parking lot where we used to chat. When the pandemic hit, the older men who gathered daily inside McDonald’s for coffee had to find a new spot, so they’d get their coffee from the drive-through, then congregate outside in the parking lot.

Last month when I came through the drive-through myself, I heard someone call out for Russell. Surely, it couldn't be my Russell after all this time—but it was! We chatted and I found he’s doing great. He even has his own apartment now. My long-ago friendship with Russell has come full circle and I’m grateful for the unexpected blessing of having him back in my life.

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