Sunny in sad times
Focusing on one woman’s need helped neighbors to step up
During the pandemic, with all its restrictions, life was tough. Families and friends were separated, and every day the death toll was rising.
From my Focolare friends, I received a daily motto based on Gospel phrases during the days of quarantining, challenging me to be focused on our neighbors’ needs and not so much on my own. I began to put aside my own fears and stresses and became more aware of my neighbors. Almost every day I sat outside on our common patio in the sun, and I thanked God for having the opportunity to enjoy it.
Eventually, one by one, a neighbor would pass by, and we would talk (socially distanced) for a few minutes. It seemed to make them feel better, as well as myself, to have some contact and conversations.
One day, my next-door neighbor stopped to chat. She told me she was pregnant and that the baby was due in June. I immediately responded, “How wonderful! Congratulations! Babies are always a blessing.”
But her face did not reflect joy. So I asked if everything was all right. She was concerned about her age and the risk. I tried to reassure her that things would be fine, that I was 36 when I had my son, and that the doctors considered me high-risk. (I remembered thinking at the time that it might be an insurance term they use to cover themselves and get paid for additional tests.)
Every day after that, I noticed her stress level increasing. Rightfully so! She owns her own business, and Covid was making it impossible to avoid the economic downturn. She was quarantined with her 12-year-old son and homeschooling.
One day I engaged her in conversation. I asked about her preparations for the baby, and all she had so far was a blanket. Almost immediately the idea of a baby shower came to my mind. We needed to celebrate her courage and her baby’s upcoming arrival.
How would the other neighbors react?
The next day I went to see a neighbor, who has lived in the neighborhood longer and who knew the other neighbors better than I. To my surprise, she was so excited with the idea and immediately volunteered to buy the paper goods.
The word spread, and 10 people were ready to contribute and assist. I volunteered to go shopping for the baby, buy food and make cupcakes; one man volunteered to barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs; others would do the set up and clean up. We decided to make it a surprise party.
Everything was really working out well. Everyone was excited about the surprise baby shower and stepping out of the Covid lethargy.
Suddenly, I thought: “What if she doesn’t like surprises or decides to change her Sunday routine?” I checked with the others, and they agreed I should let her know what was going on. I told her the plan about the shower for Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in a while, I saw her big smile.
She immediately asked what she could bring. I said, “Nothing, except you.” It made me so happy to see her happy.
We had the shower, and everyone was so festive despite Covid. We got to see a sonogram of the beautiful baby girl, and all were excited to see their new neighbor and precious gift from God.
The baby arrived June 7, healthy and precious. Her name is Sunny. Even before she was born, Sunny brought light through the sad and uncertain times of Covid. Her birth reminded me that “all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
C. D., California
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