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Gratitude when things aren’t great

| Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The pandemic has changed just about every aspect of life at Notre Dame, and it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about how many things are worse now. We can’t visit friends in other dorms, and until recently, we couldn’t even go in the rooms of friends inside our dorms. Online classes make it harder to learn, harder to pay attention and harder to meet new people. Gone are the days of cramming 20 people at the same table in the dining hall or five people at the same pew in Mass, because we don’t want anyone to sit alone. Notre Dame had to back out of hosting the first Presidential debate (although in hindsight, maybe that was for the best). The traditions of football Saturdays, the band, 80,000 screaming fans and turning the parking lots into a mid-size city — no more.

I could write 500 words just listing all the things we can do, but I don’t want to dwell on that. That wouldn’t help things.

Personally, I have been very fortunate that what I just mentioned is the worst COVID-19 has taken from me, rather than the life of a loved one like hundreds of thousands of people have had to experience. And even in the sadness of opportunities lost, there is a silver lining: a greater appreciation for what I have, and some genuine improvements.

So far this semester, I’ve spent much more time outside than in the past, and I have enjoyed the nice weather and our beautiful campus. The atmosphere of South Dining Hall is pretty nice, but nothing beats eating on the Sorin College porch with a perfect view of the Basilica and dome.

When we had to pause printing The Observer in the spring, I found myself missing the long nights in the basement of South Dining Hall, working with friends to construct the paper. Now we’re back, and although there are fewer people in the office and wearing a mask for hours on end is uncomfortable, there’s no place I would rather be on a Sunday night.

Sorin’s Thursday night Mass and Cheese often attracted dozens of churchgoers, and afterward we would enjoy good mac and cheese and conversation. Now, we can neither serve food nor welcome guests, but we have adapted by live-streaming the Mass over Zoom to allow friends to join in — and family members from back home have started to partake, too, which wouldn’t have been possible before.

The University has had to rapidly adapt to the myriad of changes this semester; some of their efforts fell short (such as quarantine and isolation during the initial outbreak), and some were successful (especially the outdoor seating and entertainment options). One particular recent bad example of leadership notwithstanding (you know what I’m talking about), the administration has listened and adjusted and generally done a satisfactory job of giving us a semi-normal college experience.

So let us continue to fight for transparency and accountability in our leadership, but the next time you find yourself complaining over a minor inconvenience, take a step back and be grateful for what we have HERE.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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