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COVID-19 and My Journey Now!

COVID-19 hit like a thief in the night. It was the worst of times…and it was the worst of times.

Parents had their own challenges while also meeting the needs of their children…

Hailee and her father, Vincent Hall
Hailee and her father, Vincent Hall during visit to Vanderbilt University. Credit: Hall Family

The dice finally seem to be falling my way.

But within seven weeks of my first grandson’s birth, the hourly news cycle was filled with some newfound crap. COVID-19 was on the loose, and the world was about to shut down.

What made everything worse was everybody else’s world shut down but mine.

I finally began understanding the “Essential Worker” tag on our employee roster.

It made me feel “some type of way” that my 15-year-old daughter was barricaded in our house all day, and I couldn’t be there. As a single father, we were always each other’s lifeline.

Anyway.

The whole pandemic phenomenon was not hard for me to believe.

In our crew of about 30 men, approximately 25 had been sick. I mean really ill. The virus, or crud, or whatever, hit us around the last week of December 2019.

There were flu-like symptoms, but no one had the flu. There were upper respiratory problems that could not be explained.

This sickness they shared wasn’t allergy related. The doctors said it wasn’t bronchitis. However, five or more had to go through an emergency room. All of them went to the doctor.

After the pandemic was formally named, none of my crew was affected until the new “variant” appeared some months later. I escaped it, but my team had COVID before COVID was COVID.

Meanwhile, the media outlets began to speculate whether some petri dish experiment had gone global or someone was spreading germs from monkeys.

It was no small matter. My brother, a pastor in Jamaica Queens, New York, lost four people to COVID in 48 hours. He performed more funerals in six months than the previous six years.

So, my “Baby” daughter was in turmoil because my grandson was on what the Baptist Church tradition calls the “sick and shut-in list.” I don’t think I saw him in person until he was 10 months old. She was overprotective, but understandably so.

Hailee, my high school student was in torment. She had just begun the second half of her sophomore year at Townview High School.

Hailee is an exceptional student and the consummate nerd. Not being able to go to school was vexing to everything she knew and loved. She even missed her teachers!

She shared some of her memories about the pandemic with me for this penning. What she says is what I thought was happening but to a lesser extent:

“A s everyone knows, COVID was a scary, uncertain time, especially at the beginning. I was scared of getting COVID, and my family getting sick from it. Many of my friends and their families being impacted by it,  and it was spreading so much that the world basically ended.

No one knew what was going to happen in the end. I was a sophomore in high school when the pandemic started, and now a freshman in college, I’m glad I went through the pandemic.

I got to spend a lot of time with myself, a thing that, before that time, had a negative connotation. But, in the end, it was the best thing that happened to me. I realized my potential as an individual.

We only live once, and I could no longer allow myself to lose time over wondering if I was ‘good enough.’”  

She blossomed after that shutdown experience in ways I never imagined. We got a lot of help from our Youth Pastor and his staff. She made connections with a local leader in the NAACP, and she thrived.

She made the best of her time during the worst of times.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, et al, were holding what seemed like hourly press conferences. The world hung on every stupid ass word the 45th president uttered.

And boy, did these episodes reveal the depth of his rudeness and ignorance. By virtue of his endless vitriol and baseless invectives, Trump caused more deaths than we can ever discern.

For Hailee, it was school.

My pain came from not being able to fellowship with my church members. But, the absolute worst of the worst was the feeling I had when I walked into this majestic edifice on Sunday morning. A sanctuary that traditionally held two services with 1200 to 1500 congregants was bare and empty now.

Our church services were only available over social media. Unfortunately, this change meant our programming had to be reconfigured to accommodate cameras rather than the eyes of a praised filled audience.

Under the auspices of COVID-19 protocols, normalcy meant arriving at church two hours early for testing, rehearsing a few songs with five or six others, and being “masked up” the whole time. There were never more than 20 people in that church.

The loud choruses of hallelujahs that usually accompanied the sermon were replaced with dead silence.

But even in that dilemma, we overcame it. We learned how to share Christ with a distant audience and our members.

On the home front, this experience brought my siblings, our children, and our parents closer. We bonded in our every Friday night two-hour Zoom sessions.

My grandson is healthy and thriving. Hailee lives her best life on a college campus in a city we never imagined.

COVID-19 hit like a thief in the night. It was the worst of times… and it was the worst of times.

But Maya Angelou’s first book of essays in 1993 captures my sentiments exactly. “Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”

COVID-19 was bad, but it made some of us better!

Written By

Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and award-winning columnist.

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