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Speaking Out: Ups and downs of pandemic life

By  Kathleena Henricus, Youth Speak News
  • April 21, 2021

Nearing eight months into this pandemic and starting my senior year in hybrid learning, I, like most, was going stir-crazy this past October. I worked remotely, teaching music and trying to learn and work in a household with three others trying to do the same. 

To inject variety into my schedule and to start seriously saving for post-secondary, I decided to get another job at a chain coffee shop by my house.

Weirdly, it was the most sense of community I had felt in a while. Despite the restrictions of social distancing, there were so many moving parts and an increasingly necessary willingness to adapt on the fly that gave me enough training to support the customer experience and my team.

Working in a job that allows me to interact face-to-face with people, I’ve been lucky enough to see the ups and downs of pandemic life. I’ve seen people coming in — their first time out in the world in weeks — and light up at the prospect of waving to a stranger. I’ve talked to dozens of people and learned so many exciting things because the normalcy of small talk had flown out the window, alongside everything else we deemed routine. I’ve had fun, more than I thought I would, laughing with my co-workers, making ridiculously customized drinks, spilling copious amounts of milk on myself and even seeing a friend or two for a brief moment.

 Yet, with all the flickering moments of joy, my eyes have been opened to a whole host of things I never expected to see from people, no less in a pandemic.

I’ve seen customers who refuse to wear masks, yell and scream in line and laugh in our faces when we back away to maintain social distancing. The Lord is our Shepherd, and we are called to be His sheep, but when these individuals scream about how we are all sheep, I don’t feel the warmth and call of community. I’ve heard remote workers snidely remark about how much better they feel, not working for minimum wage, and in the same breath, they discuss which virtual Mass they’ll be attending and what youth group social their child will be attending. 

It’s a strange dichotomy to witness; those who see the mask and the pandemic as a hoax endanger themselves and us with their anger, and those who comply with the mandates use it for anonymity, acting and speaking in ways I never would have expected to see pre-pandemic.

I’ve only been working as a barista for six months and I’ve grown so much in my threshold to always try and assume the best in others and my desire to do good, in whatever way that I can.

I strive to brush off the less-than-friendly interactions and be like the good people who walk through our doors; those who are patient and kind, those who are understanding and offer a look of sincerity as they exit to live whatever life they live.

Working in service has allowed me to see in action the teachings I’ve learned since Sunday school, appearing in the most unexpected ways, as God often does.

(Henricus, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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