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2020 Jul

Choose Compassion

Why we need love and kindness now more than ever.

My husband, Peter, and I have been watching a family on YouTube who are vlogging about their travels. Their series is called Worldtowning, and the family of four—Jessica, Will, Avalon, and Largo—are traveling around the globe. After living in Ecuador for a while, they moved to France, ended up buying a camper, and spending 2+ years traveling all around Europe while homeschooling their kids. Ring a bell?

Some of you may know that Peter and I did the same thing with our kids when they were little. Our camping adventure was shorter—just six months—but we covered a lot of kilometers in the Old Country, visiting Germany, Switzerland, Italy, San Marino, Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

We ate pasta in Italy, souvlaki in Greece, pissaladiere (a yummy garlicky pizza) in France, paella in Spain, and the best, melt-in-your-mouth rolls in Portugal. We oohed and ahhed over the Roman Coliseum, Michelangelo’s David, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; the Parthenon, the Oracle at Delphi, and Ancient Olympia in Greece; huge castles, pastoral vistas, and beautiful beaches in France, Spain, and Portugal; and much more.

The trip was an amazing chance to explore a beautiful part of the world. After it was over, we came back to the U.S. and picked up where our lives had left off. Fast forward two decades to the coronavirus and the topsy-turvy world we are living in. While traveling is pretty much off the agenda, many of us are escaping to foreign lands via the TV…which is where I found this family vlog about camping in Europe. We watched the final episode of their camping adventure last night.

As Jessica, Will, Avalon, and Largo were preparing to say goodbye to their camper and move on to new horizons, both parents and kids agreed that they had become much closer through this shared experience. Of course, they also admitted being cooped up in a camper isn’t easy. (I remember.) But the fact is you develop closer relationships when you’re in such close quarters.

Being hunkered down with your family during the pandemic is not so different. Most of us are spending a lot more time with our family members and learning new things about them, things we may never have discovered if it weren’t for this lockdown.

Of course, sheltering at home can get old after a while. People’s nerves are fraying, but when you feel like you are about to explode, pause a moment and think of something positive that has come about as a result of this pandemic. Perhaps you and your daughter have discovered a shared love of puzzles or gardening. Perhaps your son is helping you learn some new apps.

If, after you take a breath and focus on something positive, you’re still feeling a bit upset, remember that everyone in your family is going through the same stress and worry. Be gentle. Be loving. Be kind.

And if all else fails, take a walk or a bath—or both. Life’s too short to be angry at your loved ones. Remember you decide what to think and how to feel. Make a conscious choice to be compassionate to others during this difficult time. We need love and kindness now more than ever.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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