On Christmas Eve, my oldest daughter held up the phone so my parents could watch my family open our Christmas presents from them. We’d all decided it wasn’t safe for us to see them over the holidays, so FaceTime was the best way for us to celebrate “together.” It wasn’t ideal, but I just kept saying to myself, “It’s better than nothing.”
I said this again to my family as we watched Christmas Eve service from our basement. We stood to sing hymns and light our candles and did our best to worship in the space where we usually watch sports. It wasn’t ideal, but it was something.
And something is better than nothing.
Over the past few months, there have been so many times that I’ve found myself thankful for things that were possible through Zoom and FaceTime. Without this technology, my oldest two kids wouldn’t have had classes at all this semester. Without online classes, I wouldn’t have been able to train to be a Poll Watcher for the upcoming Georgia Senate run-off election. Without livestreams of worship services, I wouldn’t be able to watch my brother and my preacher friends from around the country give such amazing sermons. Without family “gatherings” on Zoom, my younger kids wouldn’t have seen their cousins’ sweet faces in over a year. Of course, all of these things would be better in person, but virtual is definitely better than nothing.
Another thing that has been helpful about Zoom is that it’s served as a divining rod for what I truly care about. There are some online interactions that I fight to make happen—such as therapy appointments and teacher conferences—because talking on the screen is much better than not talking at all. Since it takes extra effort to set up online meetings, it’s been pretty easy to notice which people, causes and activities that I most need in my life. It’s shown me not only what it is important; it has shown me what I cherish.
In October, I started a gratitude journal. Every night, I write down at least five things I’m truly thankful for. I make myself be very specific: fresh grapefruit, hot baths, a kind veterinarian, Bryan bringing me coffee in the morning, Stacey Abrams, flu shots. It’s been surprisingly helpful. I was skeptical, but I knew I needed to try something new because I was vacillating between waving my arms around yelling “We’re all going to die” and curling up in my bed moaning “Everything is broken.” This despair wasn’t good for me or my family. Finding a few things each day that aren’t “broken” has shifted my perspective; I look for things throughout the day that I’ll be able to write down that night. I’m looking for what’s good instead of what we are all missing during these pandemic days.
A few days ago, one of the things that I was thankful for was an old favorite Counting Crows song called “A Long December.” I’ve been playing it on repeat in my car because the lyrics that say “And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last,” give me so much hope. As we move into this new year, which surely will be better than the last, I intend to keep finding things for which I’m thankful, no matter how small.
Because some gratitude is always better than none.