Have you ever started on a car trip, knowing full well your intentions, but ended up somewhere else? Over forty years ago, my husband put our bed pillows and a blanket into the car, and I thought we were headed to our first Lamaze childbirth class at the obstetrician’s office.

This was the first weekly class in a series of six, but when we arrived, my husband said he didn’t want to be the first one to go in, so he thought we’d drive around a while. Soon, we were in Trinity Park, close to downtown Fort Worth, and he was commenting about the weather. At that point, I can’t say that I was very happy. In fact, I was getting quite perturbed. Like most expectant mothers, I was very scared of my impending labor and birth, and I saw this childbirth class as an opportunity to learn more so I wouldn’t be too afraid. He pulled over and said, “Want to neck?” (For those of you not from our generation, that meant we would sit and smooch a while and just be all lovey-dovey.)

I wondered what was wrong with him. We hadn’t parked since we were dating! He noticed my annoyance and reluctantly said he would head back to the doctor’s office, but seemed to be meandering as he drove through the downtown area until he finally pulled over and parked.

 Trying not to lose my temper, I was breathing deeply, starting to practice Lamaze techniques without even knowing it. He asked me to open his wallet and get out some money for the parking meter. (If I hadn’t been so angry, I would have realized that parking meters only took coins, not dollar bills.) What I then found in my hands were two tickets for a Neil Diamond concert! I couldn’t believe it. He explained he’d been trying to stall long enough to surprise me, but the challenge was the concert started a full hour after the childbirth class. Of course, I forgave him!

Today, in the midst of the COVID-19, you may feel like you started on a car trip a few weeks ago, with full intentions of what you planned to do that day and the next week, but were railroaded elsewhere, beyond your control. But have you considered that during this unexpected time, by taking a few deep breaths to enjoy the moment, you might also find some surprise tickets in your own hands?

Historically, our country has faced many types of disasters, from wars and disease, to economic collapse. What got us through these events in our past? I would propose that it was the time on our hands, working together as a family, and music to lift our spirits. (Watch The Waltons for a glimpse of one family’s bond during the challenges of the Great Depression.)

In 1918, an 18-year old young man was about to marry when the Great Influenza Epidemic (that eventually took 1/5 of the world’s population) hit his family. As the oldest of eight brothers, he would succumb to the illness, but all his siblings would live, including my husband’s grandfather. His portrait is a sobering reminder that our family lineage is a gift, and sometimes, things simply happen that are beyond our control.

Everyone knows the importance of hand hygiene. Even as a child when our home environment didn’t have running water or indoor plumbing, as described in a previous article, we washed our hands regularly. Without conveniences of daily life, necessities might have been more difficult, but we worked together and made the time fun by singing to lift our spirits and lighten our load, as we stayed clean and healthy with what we had. One parenting website now has fun hand-washing songs to help today’s kids be healthier, making sure but basics aren’t overlooked!

Kids are so amazing! One of our youngsters was always fascinated watching garbage men collect trash and aspired to grow up and join that vocation. Who knew one day they would be one of the only professions allowed to go to work during a Shelter in Place enforced to try and stop the spread of COVID-19?  As a nurse serving at the hospital this week, one new couple I cared for described this well. The father said he already saw some good coming from our nation facing COVID-19 together, that the blue-collared workers we might have taken for granted in the past are now being called the essential workers. From farmers and ranchers to lab technicians, those who work in warehouses, checkout counters, or stocking the grocery shelves, plus so many more, are now being deeply appreciated. Even the sacrifice of our police and fire fighters, EMT’s, health care workers, and military, those 24/7 professionals whose sacrifice might have been overlooked during times of abundance are now being recognized as some of the critical infrastructure workers, those who care for others, even at their own expense.

The Tarrant County Convention Center is gone where Neil Diamond brought such sweet music into our lives in 1976, but the music remains. So I would ask you, what’s in your hands? For whom are you sacrificing during this time of unknown? As Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Neil summed it up for all of us, when he recently posted a YouTube video with some new lyrics to his old song, Sweet Caroline. As he said in his intro, “I know we are going through a rough time right now, but I love ya, and I think if maybe we sing together, well, we’d just feel a little better. Give it try, okay?” So, sing along with Neil and with your family and find some joy in the midst of this challenging time!

(NOTE: You can read more about my birth experiences in my previous article, Miracles are Born Everyday.)