Little Joys During COVID Time

by Christine Herlihy

On the middle of our kitchen table in a shallow saucer of water, sprout brilliant red stems ending in bright green leaves with red veins. In its center, tiny spear-like leaves continue to reach up boldly, surrounded by their much larger and spikier “brothers and sisters.”

You might be asking yourself, “What on earth is she talking about?” Well, this plant, which has a place of honor on our table, began as a beet-top.

Several months ago, as I was preparing beets for supper, I noticed that the top of one had sprouted. I put it in water fully intending to plant it later to see what would happen. Well, “later” never came, and it continued to sprout and grow just in that water.

This plant has been a source of beauty and conversation these past few months, and every day when I replenish the water, I whisper “Thank you” to this source of joy for me.

This COVID-time is, for me, a time of little things. While the world continues to be a place of fear, anxiety, and much suffering, I continue daily to look for little joys wherever I am—which is usually right here in this house! God provides if we ask him.

Of course, much more has been going on here at Marian Centre than watching a beet plant.

This year, for example, the Christmas meal we serve to the poor was drastically different. We prayed, discussed, and prayed some more about how to feed our friends on Christmas Day, which because of COVID, couldn’t be the usual sit-down meal.

Our prayers were answered when a very creative and generous benefactor and volunteer came up with a great idea: “Christmas on a bun!” He brought over a sample for us to try: a huge herbal bakery bun filled with slices of hot pork, dressing, cranberry sauce, and gravy! It was delicious, an instant hit.

He cooked all the ingredients, and we cut the meat and stored everything except the buns in the freezer, ready for Christmas Day. The buns arrived fresh from the bakery on Christmas Eve.

Since everything had to be heated up on Christmas morning, we needed more oven space than we have. One of the local parishes not only allowed us to use their ovens, but they also watched them while we continued to prepare at home. Several volunteers helped us make the sandwiches and pack them in containers. It was a real learning experience!

Another part of our Christmas event was handing out gift bags. One of our volunteers, with the help of many friends, organized 300 large gift bags filled to the brim with goodies of all kinds. She even persuaded a grocery store to provide reusable bags for this purpose.

On Christmas Day, the weather was perfect—sunny and -5 Celsius (23 degrees F.). We served 200 people, which was a great joy for them and us. A few days later, one of the men told Charlie Cavanaugh, “Your Christmas bun made my day.” Another one said, “The gift bag was the only gift I got.”

During the Christmas Season, we did some outside carolling to a few of our friends. One of them told us she had asked God that morning to give her some joy, and with a big smile she said, “And here you are!”

So many we know are isolated and lonely.

Yesterday, while Kate O’Donnell and I were out for a walk, we met a woman who comes to us regularly. She was sitting in a scooter outside her apartment building and said to us, “I’m taking some air and chilling out.” She had a broken foot, a sprained foot, and multiple health issues.

But her face was radiant and as I was saying, “You poor thing” and “God bless you,” her smile got bigger. She replied, “Not to worry, I have Jesus.” As she went back into her building, she asked us to pray for her.

As we continued our walk, I realized that this short encounter had lifted my heart. It was as if Jesus was saying to me, “Not to worry, you have Me.”

Jesus is with us every minute trying to break through the fear, anxiety, and hopelessness of these days, whispering to our hearts, “Not to worry, I’m here. Not to worry, I’m with you. Not to worry, I’m bigger than anything you have to face.”