Change

In 1970, three of us loaded our clothes and other possessions into a car and drove 80 miles to our college. My things were unloaded quickly and didn’t take up much space in the room that I was sharing with a complete stranger. I figured out where to go on campus for my orientation meetings, how to get my meals at the cafeteria in the student union building, and managed to make it to my first classes on time. I knew that things were changing, but I didn’t know how much. I knew that if things didn’t work out, I would be able to go back to my family’s home, and for the next two summers I did exactly that - went home, worked for my father, saved my money and headed back to school in the fall.

Things, however, had changed. Home wasn’t ever quite the same. My brothers had spread out a bit. I didn’t have my own closet or dresser any more. I found out that there were things that I had left behind that I would never retrieve as my personal possessions. And there were huge attractions to my college life that made me want to go back each fall.

After three years of college, I didn’t go home one summer. I moved out of the dorm room into a tiny apartment, got married, and went to work at a huge production bakery. The job meant that I spent eight hours indoors every day. I moved huge racks of bread and loaded trucks all day long. I built up muscles that were previously unexercised. And I went home to and apartment and a wife. Things had changed. We never went back to the way they were before.

Since that time there have been many other life experiences that brought about big changes in my life. As a couple we went off to graduate school in Chicago. At the time I did not imagine that I would never again live full time in Montana, my home state, but that is the way my life has turned out. We became parents, which every parent will tell you, changes your life forever. We moved twice with our children from North Dakota to Idaho and from Idaho to South Dakota.

The seasons of change in our lives were always times of hard work and excitement, tinged with a little bit of fear. I remember when we were candidates for the job in Idaho, looking from the pulpit up to the window of the cry room in that building and seeing our two-year-old looking down at me and thinking, “her life and future depend on the decisions we make today.”

Sometimes change is the product of conscious decisions. Sometimes it comes as an unintended consequence. Years ago I wanted a canoe, but didn’t have the money to buy one. So I decided to build one. I didn’t realize how much fun the process of building would be and that it would become a hobby. Now, having built canoes and kayaks and even a row boat I think of myself as a boat builder - an identity that I never imagined would be mine.

I am coming to a new awareness in this particular season of our lives that change is occurring. It is no longer a matter of going back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic passes. I realize that some things have changed whether or not we like it, whether nor not we chose those changes.

There are little changes. I’ve gotten over feeling silly when I wear a face mask. I won’t hesitate to put one on if I have the sniffles or am feeling that I might be coughing when around others. I don’t think I will think it strange to see people wearing masks in public. I’m spending a lot more time using computers for short meetings and having a lot fewer long meetings. I doubt that we will go back to the same types of meetings in the future and I think that we won’t hesitate to add two or three people to a video conference to check a couple of things as we plan for the church. I think pastors will become proficient in social media and use it daily in our work. I don’t think our congregation will stop having livestream worship services when we go back to face to face worship. There will always be a camera and some of our people will be watching remotely. We have already made that change.

There are also big changes. I suspect that college education will never go back to the way it was. There will be students who return to residential education. There will be dormitories and cafeterias and classrooms. But online education is here to stay and remote study will be part of the college experience. Students will take classes from multiple institutions in the course of an educational career. Professors will learn the skills of teaching students who are not in the same place. There will be more independent study and fewer large classes. Some of the changes that have come about through the emptying of campuses are permanent. Colleges will not go back to the way things have been.

Like all seasons of change, we can’t see clearly what all of the changes will be and we can’t imagine how we will adjust, but we are being changed. Some people are learning to cook and won’t go back to eating as many meals in restaurants when this has calmed down. We are all learning to wash our hands properly and are forming new habits of hygiene. I’m surprised at how easy it is for me to greet someone without a handshake these days. But I don’t know all of the changes that are being made.

I do know that things will be different. We will not go back to the way things were before this pandemic. We may even come to the point where we express some nostalgia for the way things were before. And our nostalgia will be a sign that things have changed forever.

So we go forward, as always, into a future that we cannot fully imagine. Whether we like it or not the world is changing.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!