What Have We Learned?
By Penny Wiegert
During this time of pandemic, my husband and I have been blessed with being able to grab our masks and our dogs and head to our camper in the woods. There are others there too but we don’t have to worry about distance because there is plenty of space, trees and cool breeze to go around.
Some of the folks that also have a getaway spot there we have never seen, because they are just too busy to go camping as often as they like. But this year, with so few options for travel or even a change of scenery, we have met some new neighbors.
One of our fellow campground residents is a family with many foster children. They have no scheduled activities, classes or summer camps to attend so they are once again enjoying their campsite too. The kids ride bikes, sit around the fire ring and roast marshmallows. One of the young boys likes to softly sing when he walks up and down the gravel road in front of our deck. What a treat it is to watch the kids just be kids.
Also, during these last months of separation, I have been getting lots of videos from my daughter. Thanks to handheld technology, my husband and I are able to share many moments with our two grandkids despite the social distance. 
My granddaughter and grandson are finding so many treasures this summer. They have been to the lake where they play in the sand, find shiny rocks and float by the side of the pontoon. They ride bikes, collect lightning bugs and eat grilled vegetables on their backyard deck. My granddaughter has also befriended her elderly neighbor. She stands outside their deck and regales them with reports of her adventures in her own yard and on her walks with her mom and dad, brother and dog. Her mom admonishes her to “stop bothering them everytime they are outside.” But daughter reports that the neighbor tells her “bother us anytime, because it’s no bother.”
Our Zoey recently Facetimed us and was excitedly sharing with Grandpa and me that her neighbor gave her a cucumber. Her happy little squeal announced, “Hey Grammy, guess what? Look what I got? Do you know what this is? It’s a cucumber from my friend and I am going to have some of this for dinner!”
She waved that cucumber like it was a trophy. And her excitement was the same as if you would have plucked a new toy off the shelf for her. And her first thought was how she was going to find something that she could share with her “friend.”
What a wonderful thing for a 4-year-old to call her elder neighbor her “friend.”
This got me thinking about the column I wrote back in March, which by the way, seems like years ago. 
The column titled, “What Will We Learn,” was written just after the stay at home orders were placed on all of us in the Rockford Diocese. Not knowing how long we would be isolated, I mused about what the upcoming moments might teach us.
Well, so much has and hasn’t happened during that time. And now here we are, in what should be the height of the vacation season still staying close to home, many folks still out of work, living with restrictions on gatherings, still sanitizing and still praying for some medicine or miracle to cure us of COVID-19.
But in the midst of that, and with some of the toughest days behind us, I think it’s time to think about what we have learned. 
I’ve learned that for my little granddaughter, staying at home helped her find adventure in the small and simple things of life. My prayer is that when she gets to be as old as her Grammy and her neighborhood friend, she will look back with warmth and fondness on the thrill of eating a garden-fresh cucumber and running back and forth between yards to say hello to someone who’s glad to see her.
I’ve learned that we may have been missing out on so many things because we were busy planning and scheduling and coming and going to activities and gatherings and always deciding what to do next. 
I hope your lessons are as bright as a 4-year-old’s smile, as fresh to your soul as the crunch of a cucumber and as sweet as the song of a child.
What have you learned? We’d love to hear from you.