Opinion | 7 Life-Affirming Habits That Readers Picked Up During the Pandemic

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By Tish Harrison Warren

Opinion Writer

Last week, I asked readers to share practices, habits, or perspectives that they have picked up during the pandemic that they’d like to carry with them in the years ahead. The response was incredible; story after story of beauty and goodness discovered in these difficult years. I teared up reading them. I texted my husband: “People are amazing.”

The past few years have been marked by political failure, frustration, inequality, injustice, and the pain of death and mourning. But these stories remind me that, often in quiet ways, this time has also nurtured and reaffirmed the tenacity of beauty and love.

People wrote about taking up running, exercising, cooking, baking, learning languages and musical instruments, feeding the homeless, doing karate, gardening, deepening friendships or learning to slow down and reconnect with God, themselves and others. With so many testimonies of endurance and joy, I only regret that I can’t share each one.

Many readers identified with my new habit of hiking and shared how much walking or hiking have meant to them. Some said they logged hundreds of miles. Others described exploring new neighborhoods and parts of their city through urban hikes. Some of the responses below have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

From Indiana, Karen Doebler, who is a nurse in an I.C.U. unit, wrote about how walking the dog was an activity she and her husband could do together, even as they were trying to keep their distance from each other at home to protect him from possible Covid exposures.

“We usually walked for about a mile or so, and then came home. We would talk and touch base about what we had been doing these days or our hopes for the days to come. It was a daily connection,” she wrote. “It was something I looked forward to every day, a bright spot in all the fear and uncertainty around me.

“Now, the risks are less, and we don’t worry so much about me bringing Covid-19 home, and my husband has gone back to work. We still make time for those afternoon walks, though, and I still consider them to be one of the best times of the day. I arrange all my plans around it. I think of it as a gift from Covid, and I am glad that something good came out of that time.”

Dan Styer of Ohio wrote: “I would go on a long nighttime walk with the dog just before going to sleep, and together we would watch the fireflies.

“We saw bats, we heard deer. We saw the moon, the stars, the Milky Way. Once we saw a meteor. We smelled the sweetness of summer. Our walks grew longer and longer, occasionally more than a mile, illuminated only by the faint natural light. My senses of sound and smell and touch sharpened. (I can’t speak for the dog.) I thought of Robert Frost: ‘I have been one acquainted with the night.’

“For the first time in my life I saw glow worms. We walked in darkness as the leaves colored and then fell, we walked through dark snowstorms and bitter cold and under the brilliant stars of Orion.”

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