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Finding New Blessings

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 by Matt Sheber-Howard - ACE 25, Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City Skyline

This was supposed to be a “victory tour.” These post-spring break weeks were supposed to be a wonderful celebratory string of “lasts” at Mount St. Mary Catholic High School, a place that has meant so much to me for two years. This was supposed to be an incredible conclusion to an incredible two years. This is not how it was supposed to be.

25 OKC Sheber HowardInstead of getting to cherish these last months, weeks, and days with the students for whom I care so much, it now seems incredibly likely that I will not see them in person again until I am back to visit for a brief weekend in the fall (assuming schools are open and travel is safe by that point – not at all a guarantee).

Instead of coaching one more sports season, this soccer season – and the sporting careers of so many seniors around the country – has come to an abrupt halt, our boys’ very real goal of winning the state championship gone up in smoke before they hardly even embarked on their campaign.

Instead of delighting in the myriad small beauties of the day-to-day at Mount St. Mary – seeing kids while on lunch duty, joking with them in the hallways, chatting with coworkers, laughing at the unintentionally funny actions of coworkers and students alike throughout the day – I will never get to do any of those things at MSM again.

Instead of getting to teach two more months with my best friend, Tyler Schilly, it is unlikely we will ever teach in the same building again. Instead of a gradual closure to this stage of our friendship and a transition into a new, less proximate one, we said an abrupt – and likely final – in-person “goodbye” on Friday, as I drove back home to Denver, with school currently cancelled through the end of April and highly likely to be cancelled through the end of the school year soon.

None of this is how it was supposed to be.

"Maybe through the very real tragedy of this virus, we will come to live our lives in ways that better reflect its true joys and blessings."

Shaking this feeling that we all have have been robbed of something has proven to be difficult. Personal, and somewhat selfish, feelings of loss pervade – like I am missing out on things over the course of the next few months. This whole experience, though, if it can teach us anything, should remind us that we are not owed anything – that the incredible delights of our lives, big and small, are blessings for which we are incredibly fortunate.

One of the great pitfalls of the human existence is often relishing in the beauty of situations once they have passed us by. Perhaps our global, unifying – yet at times incredibly isolating and individual – experience with the outbreak of COVID-19 can teach us to lessen this gap in lived experience and appreciation of it. Maybe through the very real tragedy of this virus, we will come to live our lives in ways that better reflect its true joys and blessings.

The profound sadness I feel about the end of my ACE experience and my time at Mount St. Mary is always (though sometimes not immediately) coupled with immense joy. How fortunate are we to have places in our lives that are so difficult to leave behind? How much more fortunate are we, still, to have so many wonderful things to look forward to? It is impossible for me to reflect on this whole experience and not feel amazingly lucky.

Make an impact on the lives of Catholic school students across the country. Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach