“Nothing says ‘re-entry’ like a brand-new bag…” ran the teaser for an article in a paper I usually enjoy reading. Seriously?

I know it was a more light-hearted piece but it wasn’t meant as a joke. And I do think it’s a good sign about everyone’s spirits that we are buying clothing and looking forward to socializing – be it at work or at leisure. But I’m concerned about taking it too far. I’m concerned about forgetting – not just forgetting the big things like all the suffering (lives lost, jobs disappeared, psychological tolls – on adolescents, on young children on their parents, on marriages) but also about forgetting the smaller discoveries and paths to growth.

There’s nothing wrong with getting a new bag (I may be tempted myself) but ‘re-entry’ is not about the bag. There’s nothing wrong with some new clothes and dinner in a restaurant again, but ‘re-entry’ is not about that either.

In my mind re-entry is about consolidating the lessons learned in the past year and bringing them with us into our post-pandemic existence. It’s about not losing the gift of family time as our lives get busier. Perhaps it’s about not letting our lives get as busy as they were before.

It’s about appreciating the intimacy of small celebrations and possibly recognizing the power of that experience. Maybe we don’t need to spend as much money on a bar mitzvah or a wedding. Maybe, even if our motive is just to share the joy, we don’t need to share it with everyone we’ve ever known (!); on future occasions

maybe we can model frugality, simplicity.

For those of us who spent more time alone thinking during COVID, we don’t want to throw ourselves so enthusiastically into our social lives that we neglect that introspection, that we forget the thoughts we developed, the insights we uncovered, the commitments we made to growth.

For those of us with children home from school, be it pre-school or college, we may rejoice at getting them out of the house but we still want to appreciate the quality of the time spent with them, particularly our college-age children. They would never have chosen that time with us, but for many of us it was a treasure.

And there was a lot more drive for meaning, for wisdom, for a connection with the Almighty. With all the commuting time taken out of our schedules, we were available for more learning, more classes, more conversations about what really matters.

As the world opens up again, as we return to the office (or the mall), will we still carve our time in our days to learn and grow? Or will we feel like the crisis has been averted and the need has passed? I hope that we can stay connected, that we can hold on to the wisdom acquired and to our desire to learn more and to continue to grow.

While some may feel that “nothing says ‘re-entry’ like a new bag” or shoes or lipstick, I think nothing says ‘re-entry’ like a renewed commitment to family, to introspection, to learning, to growing and to deepening our relationship with the Almighty.