What the coronavirus is teaching me about happiness


It’s not a lesson I was looking for, but it’s probably one that I need.

Since COVID-19 has crept closer to my community, my attitude toward many things has shifted. I find myself praying for my husband (a healthcare worker) more – for his safety and protection from the virus. I find myself checking his forehead to see if he’s feverish, asking if he’s remembered to eat. The realization that my husband’s health is likely to take a serious hit makes me value his present state of healthiness (and him!) all the more – it makes me value what I already have.

The same goes for my kids. Daily, I watch these eight boys run and breathe fresh air, and I can’t help but think about the illnesses we’ve weathered in the past, where asthma has landed several of them in the hospital with life-threatening pneumonia and man – I really want what I already have.

The beloved Rabbi Hyman Schachtel, a famous author and influential leader, once said “Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have. Needless to say, I’ve been reflecting on his wisdom a lot lately – in ways big and small.

Obviously, staying safe from COVID-19 is acutely on our minds. But the sudden closings of our churches and many businesses (along with the spiritual and economic ramifications these decisions inflict) has left us, as a whole, reeling. Was I grateful enough for toilet paper a couple weeks ago? No. How about the availability of daily Mass? Definitely not.

Does it feel good and right to realize the value of these things today and to offer up overdue thanks for them? Definitely. Because sometimes I’m blind to what I already have. It takes having these things snatched away (or the threat of them being snatched away) to make me realize just how much I want my life exactly as it is right now.

This lesson has been true in the tiny details too; in regard to our books and toys and walks by our nearby river. When I realized our sports activities would be canceled for an unforeseeable amount of time, we headed to the library only to discover it was closed. Then I hopped on Amazon to order a few books and read that they were no longer shipping such items. So I ventured up my creaky attic steps and found countless board games and encyclopedias I’d forgotten about. We dusted them off and have spent the past couple mornings playing Monopoly; reading about ferns and Ferraris; then walking by our neglected river late into the evening.

The water rushes by, reminding me that this season too shall pass. But I’ve made a resolution not to simply “get through it.” I’m going to cherish these days, listening to my sons’ laughter and saving the stones they hand me as we meander along creek beds. These quiet days without tennis practice and club meetings are all mine. And if it took COVID-19 to show me just how much I want them, I’ll take it as a crash course in happiness, praying for God’s mercy every step of the way.

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