I’m Awash In Pandemic-Fueled Gratitude and Taking a Solitary Cross-Country Road Trip

A Solitary Road Trip and Some Hope For Grace

Next week, I will pack up my little snoring dog and drive from Brooklyn to Los Angeles by vaccinating myself. It’s somewhat insane, especially if you know how slowly I move. But like many things we’ve been waiting months to do, seeing any vista beyond my neighborhood is ridiculously thrilling. I’m awash in pandemic-fueled gratitude.

A dozen routes will bring me to national parks and into gorgeous parts of America that I don’t know well or at all. But as the vigils, protests, and grief-soaked press conferences cycle through the news day after day, I realize that it’s almost impossible to chart a cross-country trip without passing through states where there’s been a mass shooting incident or a traumatizing police-involved death just in the last few months—Indiana, Georgia, Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri, California, Texas, Illinois, etc.

We can’t agree on much as a nation. But if you look at a map, you can see how this thread of violence connects us. These tragedies bind us. And there are too many wounded cities, neighborhoods, workplaces, and families to drive around. That painful geography leaves us with some choices: We can pretend that this violence is unstoppable or that it isn’t our problem. Or, we can see all these communities as our communities, these wounds as our wounds, and these losses as our collective losses.

And suppose those grandparents and teenagers sorting packages at work, those parents buying groceries, and young men driving home to their moms are all part of our family. In that case, our human family, changing what’s not working, becomes a labor of love, not fury. Of hope, not blame. Of progress, not impotence. If you’re new to It’s Not Just You, subscribe here to receive an essay every Sunday.


I Am a Girl From Africa: At 8, Elizabeth Nyamayaro almost starved after a drought devastated her small village in Zimbabwe. But as she lay on the hot, unyielding earth between life and death, a young woman in a blue uniform showed up with a bowl of porridge. Nyamayaro later learned that the person who saved her worked for the United Nations, and she vowed to work for the U.N. herself. In this buoyant memoir, Nyamayaro traces her journey from that moment to a lifetime calling as a humanitarian in London, Geneva, and finally, as a United Nations Senior Advisor in New York.

Nyamayaro still believes without a hint of cynicism that “what we share is more powerful than what divides us.” She can trace much of that faith in our collective humanity and in her resilience to her Gogo (grandmother), whose lyrical voice we hear throughout the book: “You are part of ubuntu, which means that your dream must be big enough for all of us, big enough for all Africans. Never forget that, my dear child. Never forget.”


If You’re Wiped Out and Muddle-Headed … it’s not just you. NPR spoke to psychiatrists who say their patients increasingly tell them they’re exhausted and unable to concentrate. Mental health experts say it’s a normal reaction to abnormal times. A Short Guided Meditation on Letting Go of Self-Doubt from British meditation teacher John Siddique.


Charmaine is a young Houston woman who aged out of the foster care system and has struggled to survive during the pandemic with limited resources and no family to speak of. After a historic winter storm hit Texas a few months ago, Charmaine’s home was rendered uninhabitable. She had to live in her car, an experience she described as “incredibly scary as a young woman and exhausting.”

With the waitlists for the nearby shelter and housing support backed up, the local Pandemic of Love chapter stepped in to rally the community and ensure Charmaine did not fall through the cracks any longer. “I was ready to give up on everything and saw no future for myself. I began to feel invisible to the world, as if I did not matter,” confided Charmaine to a volunteer.

The group raised enough funds to ensure Charmaine could stay at a local hotel, and then one generous donor helped her pay for the first month’s rent and security deposit for a new apartment. Charmaine has since found a job at a local Sam’s Club, and her spirits have been buoyed by the support: “This community has saved my life. It has given me a home, and an income and, more importantly, restored my faith in humanity. I have a sense of worth now. I was seen. I matter, too.” Story and images courtesy of Shelly Tygielski, founder of Pandemic of Love, a grassroots organization that matches volunteers, donors, and those in need.

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!