There’s new excitement in the air; it’s palpable. Relief and gratitude and a sense of togetherness. In the grocery store, complete strangers are yelling across the aisles. “Isn’t it wonderful not to wear our masks?” “We all need lipstick now!”

We were all united in our sense of joy and freedom – and ability to freely wander the grocery aisles! It was a brief moment in the produce section but it perked me up all day. I couldn’t stop staying thank you to God; I couldn’t stop marveling at the new possibilities. I couldn’t stop taking joy in the little things.

And it hasn’t gone away (okay, it’s only a week). My husband and I can walk down any Main Street in small town, New Jersey and feel a sense of exhilaration. And I know we are not alone.

There is a new sense of hope, a new belief in future possibilities. Whatever the politicians may say, the streets tell a different story – one of people who have united in their battle against a common foe (the pandemic and all its implications) and have emerged, often scarred, often wounded but victorious. A people united in their sense of appreciation and gratitude.

And I’m just praying that it lasts. It’s so hard to hold on to these things. The Torah suggests in numerous places (specifically in the story of Elijah and the wicked queen Jezebel) that the collective memory of a people for a powerful emotional experience is three days (after that she planned to come and kill Elijah – but that’s a story for another time). How long will we remember? How long will we be grateful? How long will we share this sense of connection with our fellow Americans/Jews/human beings?

Until the first person honks at us on the freeway or cuts us off? Until the washing machine breaks and the repairman is late? Until our child gets a C in his back-to-school in-person learning experience? Until our neighbor throws a noisy party (and doesn’t invite us)?

What trivial thing will be the trigger that takes us out of our place of gratitude and joy and back to discontent and dissatisfaction?

I hope it will be longer than I actually imagine it will. I hope that since it has been over a year of challenges, it will be a little longer than three days (or at this point a week!) of happiness. But hoping is rarely enough. We need commitment. We need plans. And we need prayer and the Almighty’s help.

We’re going to get busy again. Our social lives are going to rev up. We’re going to start going into stores instead of having things delivered (maybe just because we can). We’re probably going to overschedule and overbook – perhaps because we want to feel productive again. And we’re going to get frazzled and out tempers will fray. And, worst case scenario, we’ll be back to where and who we were before this pandemic began.

That would be a tragedy of a different sort. That would be a real waste. So how do we hold on? Everyone has to make their own decisions but we won’t hold on without a concrete plan. Without action nothing lasts (As we are taught in Ethics of The Fathers “If our wisdom exceeds our deeds, our wisdom won’t last). We don’t need elaborate plans. And we all know that small changes, even after such a dramatic experience, usually succeed better than large ones.

I have my own plan – I would love to hear yours. I have an old-fashioned calendar. Yes, call me a Luddite; it’s the kind you where you actually write down your commitments. It’s not on my phone; I can spread it out and see the whole week before me. This is my new goal for the new, post-Covid me. I’m going to look at my week, at the list of meetings and classes and all the other “to-do’s” and I’m going to take one thing off. Not one per day, not two things; just one thing off. So I can slow it down. And in that space I’m going to add time for gratitude, for appreciation, time to focus on my blessings, time to say thank you.

It’s not “going big” but I think it just may work. I’m still on a high, still feeling so grateful, still loving see all the unmasked faces. And I really don’t want to lose that.