Benediction: Worlds Behind the Screen

a cat sleeping

Eleven months into working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I waited for a meeting to begin. Before everyone arrived in our Zoom meeting room, Director of Academic Advising Tim Scherer said to the group, “Let me quickly show you the new addition to our family!” He disappeared from his screen and returned a moment later holding a tiny yellow chick in his hands. He stroked the creature’s downey head with his thumb and explained how his wife had turned their sunroom into a nursery for a growing brood of chicks.

Working remotely for more than a year has given Fuller’s community many such opportunities to peer into each other’s worlds apart from our professional roles. In my department, Communications and Marketing, four babies were born just a couple of months before the pandemic started. Instead of oohing and aahing over photos displayed on phone screens at the lunch table, we’ve had front row Zoom seats to the growth of these babies from being sleepy infants in onesies to bright-eyed, babbling toddlers.

I’ve seen guitars hanging on walls, coworking roommates, cats on keyboards, hyperactive elementary-aged kids, and spouses accidentally walking into the frame with a plate of snacks. I know which of my coworkers prefer to take their meetings on sunny patios and which ones feel the need to turn their camera off while eating lunch during a meeting (I am in the shy eaters club).

While some companies and institutions around the US have mandated a return to the office as soon as public health guidelines allowed, Fuller’s main location in Los Angeles County made it impossible to do so. I’ve heard anecdotal reports from employees at other organizations where the tolerance for child interruptions and spotty internet dwindled after the first few months of remote work (despite the unchanging status of closed schools and overloaded WiFi). In contrast, I’m grateful for the way Fuller has made room for the parts of ourselves and our lives that never would have shown up in the office in the “before times.” While we maintain professionalism and have kept productivity at a steady clip, the stiffness of office life has loosened, the shiny worker masks removed, and we see each other’s faces, in turns weary, jubilant, determined, grieving.

Each time a baby climbs up onto a coworker’s lap, a dog barks in the background, or someone needs to turn their camera off, we have a chance to respond with grace, empathy, and even celebration. These moments become opportunities to bless one another, to bless the stuff of life we are situated in. A year’s worth of such moments woven together has created a sense of trust and belonging—a covering in a season marked by risk and uncertainty, a way of saying to each other, “You’re safe here.”

The pandemic was the catalyst for so much loss. It’s a small consolation that in this year of studying and working from home at Fuller, we’ve gained a wider view of each other’s humanity, and welcomed it.

Joy Thompson

Joy Netanya Thompson (MAT ’12) is communications senior editor at Fuller. She is a writer focusing on the intersections of theology, motherhood, and pop culture, and has published her work in Sojourners, RELEVANT, Motherwell, and Outreach magazine, among others. Find her at joynetanyathompson.com.

Eleven months into working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I waited for a meeting to begin. Before everyone arrived in our Zoom meeting room, Director of Academic Advising Tim Scherer said to the group, “Let me quickly show you the new addition to our family!” He disappeared from his screen and returned a moment later holding a tiny yellow chick in his hands. He stroked the creature’s downey head with his thumb and explained how his wife had turned their sunroom into a nursery for a growing brood of chicks.

Working remotely for more than a year has given Fuller’s community many such opportunities to peer into each other’s worlds apart from our professional roles. In my department, Communications and Marketing, four babies were born just a couple of months before the pandemic started. Instead of oohing and aahing over photos displayed on phone screens at the lunch table, we’ve had front row Zoom seats to the growth of these babies from being sleepy infants in onesies to bright-eyed, babbling toddlers.

I’ve seen guitars hanging on walls, coworking roommates, cats on keyboards, hyperactive elementary-aged kids, and spouses accidentally walking into the frame with a plate of snacks. I know which of my coworkers prefer to take their meetings on sunny patios and which ones feel the need to turn their camera off while eating lunch during a meeting (I am in the shy eaters club).

While some companies and institutions around the US have mandated a return to the office as soon as public health guidelines allowed, Fuller’s main location in Los Angeles County made it impossible to do so. I’ve heard anecdotal reports from employees at other organizations where the tolerance for child interruptions and spotty internet dwindled after the first few months of remote work (despite the unchanging status of closed schools and overloaded WiFi). In contrast, I’m grateful for the way Fuller has made room for the parts of ourselves and our lives that never would have shown up in the office in the “before times.” While we maintain professionalism and have kept productivity at a steady clip, the stiffness of office life has loosened, the shiny worker masks removed, and we see each other’s faces, in turns weary, jubilant, determined, grieving.

Each time a baby climbs up onto a coworker’s lap, a dog barks in the background, or someone needs to turn their camera off, we have a chance to respond with grace, empathy, and even celebration. These moments become opportunities to bless one another, to bless the stuff of life we are situated in. A year’s worth of such moments woven together has created a sense of trust and belonging—a covering in a season marked by risk and uncertainty, a way of saying to each other, “You’re safe here.”

The pandemic was the catalyst for so much loss. It’s a small consolation that in this year of studying and working from home at Fuller, we’ve gained a wider view of each other’s humanity, and welcomed it.

Written By

Joy Netanya Thompson (MAT ’12) is communications senior editor at Fuller. She is a writer focusing on the intersections of theology, motherhood, and pop culture, and has published her work in Sojourners, RELEVANT, Motherwell, and Outreach magazine, among others. Find her at joynetanyathompson.com.

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