New Better Normal

forest preserve
Mayslake Forest Preserve

It’s been a long 14 months. For some of us it has been a period of deep loss. If you are among those who had COVID, or who lost someone dear to you to the pandemic, our hearts are with you. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, there was the roiling of a country trying to decide whether or not it will be its better self.

In a year when we could have used an unequivocal movement toward spring, we in the upper Midwest have had this tepid, creeping season, warm and sunny one day, damp and cold the next. There is something larval in it: not the old thing and not yet the new.

Or maybe this is the path toward better. Like the whisper of green on all the branches, until suddenly everything shouts of green – so green that even the most broken heart can see it and rejoice in it.

At the foundation we have filled our vaccination cards gleefully, masked up, and, where we’re not making a problem or pushing someone over CDC occupancy limits, resumed our in-person site visits. We have found ourselves in recent days in the lobby of a building downtown wondering exactly how to use those elevator things. Sitting in a room with the other masked people, liberated from our little Zoom boxes, we are so grateful to be back among our fellow humans. There is an electricity in the room when we find ourselves with other people, and it is reviving us – recalling us to life.

Are we getting back to normal? We should know well, after this last year, that the old normal didn’t work for large groups of our fellow Americans. We weren’t ready to hear what was so inconvenient. We are ready now. New normal must be better. It must be kinder. It must value all of us as God values us – in perfect love. Equal love may mean, for a long time, a justly unequal emphasis on repairing the damage we have done over centuries. One thing we have learned in this time is that we truly are bound in a single garment – if our country doesn’t work well for all of its people it doesn’t work well for any of us.

Do you belong to one of the groups that has not been well heard in our country’s history? We meant to hear you before, and we will redouble our efforts to listen well now. We commit ourselves to learning, to hearing. That will be one way for us to love each other in this country for a while yet. By insisting on an accurate and full reading of our history, even when, especially when, it is ugly and we would rather not.

Have we trusted you who do the work directly in communities to know what you need? If we didn’t do that well before we aim to do it better this time. You will help us, because those of us who are committed to build the new better normal are enough, if we all work together.

We come back to human interaction with full hearts, each with our own set of losses and our own resolve to do better. We have missed you all so much. We are so glad to see you again.

—Contributed by Clare Butterfield, Executive Director