Steven A Smith's front porch/Contributed

Counting Blessings During COVID Stillness

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By Steven A. Smith

I might live in the quietest neighborhood in Spokane.

Quiet is not the same as silent. During the week there will be the sounds of some traffic, an occasional lawn mower, a muted conversation between neighbors, and the giggles and shrieks of the neighborhood children at play. That last may be the most comforting sound in these difficult times.

But on a Sunday morning in summer there is a near supernatural stillness. Neighbors have gone to their virtual church, or to the lake, or maybe they are just sleeping late. An occasional jogger or walker will pass but social distancing put an end to the larger groups we used to see.

Watching the World Not Pass By

My wife and I have the only large front porch on the block. And on Sunday mornings, we like to sit there, sip our coffee, read the newspapers, and watch the world NOT pass by. I do not use the term often or lightly – but those Sunday morning moments on the porch are a blessing.

I am a journalist by training and trade, so preternaturally cynical and pragmatic. My wife and friends say I am a glass-half-empty person. I like to think that if I expect the worst out of any situation, I can never be disappointed.

When I told my wife this last Sunday that the precious stillness was leading me to count my other blessings, she laughed. Carla is a former journalist, too. Cynical and pragmatic. But her laughter, directed at me or at the world’s other follies, is one of those blessings. I love her laugh.

Seeing The Glass As Half-Full

The world seems as if it is falling apart these days. The country is divided. The economy is in shambles. The pandemic threatens everyone but particularly the most vulnerable who also happen to be my family members and my closest friends. I write about these things all the time and too often find myself in that half-empty place.

It is past time for a mental shift. So, I sat on the porch this last Sunday, drinking strong black coffee, and began to count my blessings.

I am a parent, a proud parent of two adult children who triumphed over the routine adolescent and young adult crises to find their own contentment. Our children are a blessing. Grandchildren, too.

Memories Are A Blessing

I grew up in a family of five children. My younger sister died in 2009, one of my younger brothers in 2019. My dad died in 2007, my mother just a few months ago at 92. Their memories are a blessing. Our families are a blessing and we need to hold them close, even if virtually.

I live in a comfortable home in a fine city, a blessing sadly unavailable to far too many people. Those actively seeking solutions to homelessness and growing economic dislocation are a blessing to our community.

I have enjoyed the benefits of white privilege and the harms of violent anti-Semitism. Understanding who we are and what made our place in this world is a blessing to be shared.

Friends, Too

I have close friends, many of them in my life for 50 or more years. Our friends are a blessing.

And I came to this unexpected realization a few months ago. In the age of Covid, social media is more important than ever and, yes, a blessing. Of course, I contemplated dropping Facebook in response to questionable data collection and fake news practices. But I could not stay connected to friends and family without it.

Not all of us share the same blessings. Some of us are blessings poor. The glass-half-empty part of me despairs at that. But for most of us there is something positive on which to reflect. Abandoning that cynical, over-taxed world view for just a few minutes of thoughtful reflection may be the best thing we can do for ourselves.

I am alive. You are alive. The richness of our lives – whatever the challenges, whatever the inconveniences of social distancing and masking – is the ultimate blessing.

For a few minutes on a quiet Sunday morning I can think of my glass as quite full.

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About Steven A Smith

Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full time teaching at the end of May 2020.

Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms with a staff ranging from more than 140 in 2002 to 104 at the time of his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at The Statesman Journal, a Gannett newspaper in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette, a Freedom Communications newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an MA in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon.

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