• Priscilla Berggren-Thomas

Share a Story, Read a Story

Last month, the library hosted one of the final events in our Libraries Transforming Community grant from the American Library Association and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries. Our Stories Behind the Mask project continues, but the grant funded phase of hosting community conversations about living in the time of the Covid pandemic was completed with our Conversation and Story Reading on June 30th. Fifteen people participated to share about their experience during the last eighteen months.

We heard stories about our anxieties over family members who caught Covid, learning to grocery shop in new ways, being grateful for health, and being fascinated with the science of learning about this virus. Discussions ensued about discovering new passions by reading, writing, painting, coloring, and crafting from sewing masks to knitting and crocheting. We never knew there were so many bakers in the world, until flour and yeast couldn’t be found. And all of us laughed at the memory of toilet paper becoming a hot commodity.

Among the fears and anxieties there were many things to marvel at. Many of us never thought we’d see everyone wearing masks in the US. Several people spoke about never imagining that schools would close. And more than one participant mentioned watching in awe as teachers and students adapted to online learning. The world, for all that it disoriented us, also showed us how adaptable, ingenious, and resilient human beings can be.

We spoke of rediscovering a connection to nature and taking time to slow down. One participant mentioned finally refinding her connection to the world after losing her son prior to Covid by recognizing that grief was what everyone was going through during the pandemic. It appeared that for many of us our inability to be together helped us re-experience a sense of connection with others. Some of that came from using old and new technologies – picking up the phone, writing letters and sending them through snail mail, and learning to meet via Zoom. But sometimes it was just a sense of “we are all in this together,” that kept us connected. Or maybe relearning what really matters to us.

We came to appreciate our families a little more, and grocery store clerks a lot more. We learned to be grateful for good hygiene and hand washing. We were thankful for good health and having jobs to do. We appreciated a slower pace and found joy in solitude. We read good books and found some that kept us going when anxiety and loneliness gnawed at us. We were happy to become playmates to young children confined at home and searched out postcards to send to family members. We felt privileged and grateful.

When we thought about what comes next, we knew there are things we want to hold on to when all of this is over. Good handwashing techniques, if nothing else. But more than that, being more thoughtful and intentional in our grocery shopping, or maybe just more thoughtful and intentional in everything. Taking life a little slower, a little more mindfully. Being appreciative of good health and people and pets to love. Taking time for joy and nature. And maybe baking a little less, or a little more. That one is still open to debate!

Although the June 30th was the last discussion the library will host about the pandemic, we hope that the conversation isn’t over. Tell your story and submit it to our collection here It can be written or visual art. And listen to others’ stories. You can see the collection at Telling our stories, helps us find meaning in in our lives. Having our stories heard, connects us to others. So share a story and read a story, because life, community, and conversation continue.

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