With the pandemic we’re all facing, the lives we’ve been familiar with have changed. Familiarity can be a wonderful thing – it can also be dangerous. Think about it for a minute. Who doesn’t delight in the pleasure that hanging out with a close friend brings – the kind of friend who can finish your sentences; the friend who knows when to sit beside you (with appropriate social distancing, of course) and say nothing; who knows when to bring along dark chocolate? This type of familiarity is comforting and deeply satisfying. So far, so good, right? Not so fast – while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this level of familiarity, as with most good things, too often we begin to take these friends (or substitute your favorite pastime here) for granted. We come to expect things to always be as we’ve known them. We expect people to say or do certain things. We develop habits…maybe sometimes even ruts. Merriam-Webster defines a rut as “a track worn by a wheel or by habitual passage, or a groove in which something runs.” Ruts can guide us and contain us and keep us on the right track; however, if we continue reading the definition, ruts can also be “a usual or fixed practice, especially: a monotonous routine.” When familiarity leads us into a routine – otherwise known as a rut – we can become immune to what’s truly going on around us. We’re not saying we’ve all been in “monotonous routines” but can’t we find some truth in pondering this concept? Perhaps we can use this time of sheltering at home to recognize and improve our daily routines. A few ideas to get us out of our ruts: Realize we could show more gratitude to the cashier who checks us out at the grocery store or pharmacy…to the clerk at the drive through window… the bank teller…, Be thankful we are able to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the bank, Use this time of additional solitude to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby – or maybe to simply be still for a few minutes each day, Find one person who’s lonely or disabled or sick and reach out – send them a cartoon to brighten their day, offer to leave di er or a cookie on their porch, or simply send a quick text to let them know you’re thinking of them, Educate ourselves about the most vulnerable around us and find a way to help – something as simple as dropping off ca ed goods at a local food bank, Reach out to that young woman you’ve considered mentoring – and haven’t yet found the time – and offer to Zoom for a couple of sessions, Write that book or blog or poem that’s been inside you. Showing gratitude for the familiar can awaken our senses to what’s happening around us. Learning or trying something new helps us avoid the danger trap of familiarity. Maybe on the other side of this pandemic, we will emerge as kinder, more thoughtful, less hurried and more purposeful people. Rather than going stir crazy because of all the things we can’t do these days – things we’re all too familiar with – let’s step out of our comfort zones and embrace the unfamiliar. Then when our familiarity with COVID-19 becomes history, we will have cut some new paths along unfamiliar trails. And hopefully we will appreciate the familiar things we once took for granted – and avoid the dangers of familiarity. Together we can emerge stronger. Better. More thankful. If you want to talk to, we’re here.