Over the course of the last eighteen months, all day-to-day experiences have changed in one way or another.
From work-life, school and extracurriculars, everything felt like it was missing something.
A year after the pandemic began, I was at the Ryder Center when I realized there wasn’t just something missing from our day-to-day life, but rather someone missing too.
In the parking lot, heading into the Ryder for my daily workout, I saw the line growing for the Meijer vaccination clinic that the school was hosting.
In that line were all kinds of people, mothers, fathers, grandparents, students and people in wheelchairs.
I stopped, looking at the line that was accumulating.
It was the first time I had seen someone in a wheelchair in over a year. Time seemed to stop, and my heart was flooded with all kinds of emotions.
The first was heartbreak.
I thought back to the first year of the pandemic. I would go to the grocery store and who would I see?
Primarily all people younger than seventy who were healthy.
I thought about all the times on campus where I only saw students that were healthy, or the Sundays I spent in church where the elderly were far and few between.
Thinking back over the past year and about all the people I hadn’t seen, it broke my heart.
I thought about all the times I didn’t see the people I loved, the times that they couldn’t be a part of anything, from Christmas parties to football games.
Outside of initial lock-down, most SVSU students carried on with their lives. While there might not have been as many events as normal, like in-person classes or club sports, we still participated in other activities.
Whether we simply hung out with friends or went out for dinner, our lives had some things that went back to normal.
But there were many others who lost out on much more than we did, including the man I saw in the wheelchair.
Who knows the last time he felt safe enough to be with his own family?
Today he would get his vaccine, giving him a dose of hope.
Surrounding this man were cars unloading with people ready to receive their vaccination, all people who were sick or elderly.
That day, they were hopeful that this next step would get them closer to being with the people they love.
After the spiral of sad and overwhelming thoughts, those emotions began to shift. For the last year, they had been unable to play their role in society.
Now they were coming back home, like the prodigal son returning to his father. This brought me to tears.
I remember smiling through my mask, thankful for the people who feel safe and comfortable to come back to the day-to- day experiences after all those months alone.
When I walk into the grocery store, I am elated by the sight of those in wheelchairs, those that need help pushing their grocery carts because they play a role in our society.
In class the sight of people, whether healthy or sick makes me feel joyful, that we are in some ways closer to something normal.
Everyone, no matter their age or health, plays a role in society; they are our loved ones, friends, church elders, grandparents and more.
Today I am thankful for each and every one of them.
From the football games they can be a part of, to the Christmas parties they can attend.
They are a crucial part in our society.