In the Midst of the Pandemic
Everything is different now. And, will be again by the time the morning news airs tomorrow, and could be different again by the 12 noon report, and certainly by tomorrow's 6 p.m. reports. Unprecedented actions are being taken by health care specialists, government leaders, religious leaders. Everyone seems to be feeling the impact of the spread of COVID-19 around the world at almost every level of daily life--work, school, social events, sporting events, travel, economy, health care, religious practices, recreation and exercise plans. The list goes on and on.
This is the first time in my life that those generalizations of everyone and every where are NOT exaggerations!
So, I can say, with fair confidence--everyone I know is re-assessing and making dramatic changes in their daily routines. And, in the midst of the practical and essential tasks for personal, family, physical and relational needs, I am also hearing folks speak of their hunger and longing for contact and conversation about spiritual questions, feelings, insights, and wisdom for living in a time such as this.
I am so moved by folks who are already looking for, finding and acting on opportunities for extending kindness and compassion to others, which are present in the midst of the crisis. The stories are coming forward on FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter and local newscasts rapidly!
Particularly moving for me last Saturday was the reading of this poem, written by Lynn Ungar, a Unitarian Universalist minister and a dog trainer. Her poem went viral nearly overnight. An article about Lynn and the poem appeared in the Chicago Tribune over the weekend. The response to it speaks to me of a deep cry in our hearts not only to "do something" in this pandemic that is practical and helpful, but also the yearning we have to turn tragedy and challenge on their heads so that we help one another keep in clear sight the truth that life not a series of transactional experiences, loosely related from one event to another, with my personal experience at the center of each transaction. Rather, I think most of us carry within our being a deep, God-designed longing to integrate the whole of life--body, mind, spirit--within ourselves, and in our relationships with God and our neighbors.
Lynn Ungar's poem speaks to me of that deep longing, and is a reminder that this pandemic, in all of the horrors and tragedies it already has brought, also holds the potential for helping us remember why we want to do those practical, helpful things-- promoting health and well-being for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our communities, this dis-eased world:
"We are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful."
..."our lives are in one another's hands."
What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down. And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live. –Lynn Ungar 3/11/20