This little column is meant as a personal monthly note at the end of every month. Looking back at August, I heard many stories about “staycations”. Holiday plans needed to adapted to safer locations and new initiatives needed to be invented to keep the kids happy without the “normal” annual holiday overseas. In spite of tropical weather in The Netherlands, this year’s summer was very different from other years.

In spite of all the COVID restrictions, quarantines and face masks, many people re-discovered the value of space and time, of family and friendship. We actually learned what it means to really miss someone or something. The things we took for granted, we came to consider as a privilege. In April, this meant something as simple as having enough toilet paper. In August, it meant being grateful for the joy of having a drink on a terrace, or still having a safe place to go for a holiday close to home. 

I have never received so many “Thank You’s” for the simple fact that the church was open again and that Mass could also be followed online. Did COVID teach us to be a little bit more grateful for the simple things in life? We have seen protest demonstrations against the restrictions, but I also heard a lot of other voices that did not make the news: voices of gratitude for solidarity, voices saying thank you for what is possible rather than frustration about what is not. 

Going into September, summer is over and darker clouds move in. I hope that going back to school or work keeps us safe and grateful for the opportunities that we have. This has been one of the weirdest summers. Only God knows what it really changed within each of us. All I want to say is thank you to everybody who got me through August and enabled me to count my blessings. 

Fr. Sjaak