Karen Bohnert
It has been four years since my father left this earth for a better view from above. I miss him deeply, and I wonder what advice he and my late mother would offer us during these difficult times.

I truly believe that the COVID-19 virus is more than a pandemic. It is also a huge refresher course for the whole world in humanity.

COVID-19 has changed the world, and I for one wasn’t prepared for it. I was traveling when the news broke, and at first, I didn’t take it all that seriously. Then, while away on that trip, my kids’ school closed. Next, our church canceled Sunday mass, and at that moment, I knew the life that I once knew was temporarily gone. I share with you all I have learned while in “stay-at-home” mode.

During this time of uncertainty, I have often thought of my father, who grew up poor, beyond my comprehension. Through that, he realized how little was needed to make a happy life.

When I was growing up, in the midst of what I had to think was his mid-life crisis, my dad became a hermit of sorts and did not leave the farm for more than a year. I wish he was alive today to quietly preach what he learned during that time. My guess is he would simply remind us all that little is needed to make for a happy life. There is a quote that goes, “Build a home with love, and you have all that you need in this world.”

Dad would often encourage us to “Find an occupation that gives you purpose and that gives you a paycheck, and then you’re golden.” And my mother would say, “Always think of those who are less off, and that perspective is everything.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, very few of us really knew how to be still and to be present in our life; now we are all getting a quick 101 course in how to do just that. We are forced to pay attention to the things that matter most in our lives.

Instead of rejoicing about what we had, our society often complained how their glass was only half full. People focused on what they didn’t have versus what they did.

Let’s be honest, our generations today have an embarrassment of riches — a microwave, a patio, a living room — honestly, these are items previous generations thought only rich people had. It has taken a pandemic for many of us to realize how good we have it.

I get it, it is unsettling to have a three-car garage filled with vehicles with nowhere to go. I, too, fall under this umbrella, but I’m reminded, just like all of you, that in the quietness of the chaos, we will be okay.

Yes, it has been a long stretch of embracing the many titles that I now truly hold, being a work-at-home, stay-at-home mom, wife, writer, and teacher. I have learned the hard way to appreciate the noise and to find beauty in things that, before all this chaos, I was sadly blinded to.

Really, the simple wonders of life fill my heart — kids giggling, bulbs pushing through the ground, enjoying homemade buttermilk Belgian waffles as a family of five, kids bottle feeding calves, and three generations working side-by-side on our family dairy farm.

It’s crazy that it took a pandemic to wake America up, me included. COVID-19 is our prompt that this is no dress rehearsal. We must enjoy our journey, even as wild and crazy as it is, and that we must not wish to get to our destination so quickly. We must slow down and enjoy life. The current situation has forced us all to do just that.

We all are going through this pandemic battle; nobody escapes this. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and maybe we shouldn’t either. It reminds us how short life really is and what really matters in life. Friends, our purpose in life is not to buy toilet paper. It is to live life with purpose, to love and look after one another.

Somehow through the rat race, we have neglected our home life, using it as a place to park our belongings while we race off to soccer practice, basketball games, and sit down dinners in restaurants, all in trying to keep up with the Joneses. I tell this to my children, and they immediately ask, "Who are the Joneses?" That is the exact question COVID-19 has made us ask ourselves, and more importantly, why do we have such a desperate need to impress?

This global health scare made us stop and focus on family and be thankful for the necessities. But, really, this is what farm families, like mine and yours, have done for decades. Sure, we are still on the go, a part of society’s hustle, but really, we’re a slower version of the rat race the world lives in. Remember what Lily Tomlin wrote, "If you win the rat race, you are still a rat."

COVID-19 has taught us a lot in a short amount of time, but perhaps the biggest lesson it’s teaching us is to have faith. We have a choice to be patient or to panic. In the best of times and in the worst of times, God is right there. Have faith that better days are on the horizon.

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.