Coronavirus, Circles, and Holy Week

People across our country are in the midst of a “Stay at Home” shutdown due to the coronavirus. This is a new phenomenon for me, as a fifty-something adult. For many, this shutdown means each day looks and feels pretty much the same. Those of us in this category are trying to find a new routine as we work and homeschool during the day, and clean closets, read, binge-watch Netflix or Hulu, and call or Zoom friends and family at night. While life is not normal, it is still ordinary in many ways. We do our part in flattening the curve by staying home, and perhaps making masks, funding charities, or volunteering, yet mostly we are bored, lonely, and crave “normal” as we knew it before COVID-19.

Some of us are going to work. Those of us in that category are “essential employees.” Essential employees range from carpenters to grocery store workers to doctors and nurses. I’m grateful for essential employees. Most essential employees are invisible, like the truck drivers transporting toilet paper and cleaning supplies or the community leaders coordinating food distribution and welfare. Some are visible, like grocery store clerks and gas station attendants. While I have often taken those jobs for granted, now their presence comforts and encourages me to get only what I need today and trust they will also be there tomorrow. Some of you are game-changers, like the doctors and nurses, receptionists and janitors who tirelessly show up every day to do their job at hospitals and clinics. But it doesn’t end there. There are also researchers and companies doing their part to find a vaccine and keep supplies flowing, EMTs and police officers who put themselves “out there” to keep us safe, and hospice workers and caregivers in senior care facilities. Thank you for the jobs you do and the roles you play in making this pandemic as humane as possible. I will never know your names but see how you are working for the common good. We are all benefitting from your work.

The coronavirus has lifted the veil on death. It has reminded us we are all mortals. We will die, of this virus or something else, and this makes us vulnerable. For many, facing our own mortality has awakened our capacity to be grateful and compassionate. We were created to care for one another; humans are designed to love deeply. Our capacity to care for others is not limited to our family and friends, but also extends to strangers and people we have never met. As Brene Brown so eloquently reminded us, awareness of our own vulnerability frees us for living abundantly no matter the circumstances. Vulnerability is not a flaw in our design, rather it is an opening to lean into and explore.

This pandemic has also illustrated that not everyone has access to the same resources. This makes some of us more vulnerable than others. Systems free and constrain us. When we believe resources are limited, creativity can diminish and selfishness increase. While that is a human response, we do have other alternatives. We can tap into the compassion and gratitude planted in our DNA and counter our fear and selfish nature. We can reach out to the most vulnerable and begin the restoration of society there. We can choose to see the disparity and give-up our personal comforts for the sake of our neighbor having the basics of life. Seeing beyond vulnerability to possibility can lead to action with an eye toward what is good for all.

I recently ran across this short video about circles. It offers a lesson geared for children that might serve us all as we move forward in the days ahead. What if we all had the power to expand our circle of relationships? What if our capacity for gratitude and compassion had no end? What if we could tap into how we were designed and could love others at an exponential rate? Could a pandemic of love counter COVID19?

Christians are in the midst of Holy Week. This is a sacred time in the life of the church. It is the end of the season of Lent, a season where we have named our mortality and need for a savior. This year that message was been in our face and urgent. Yesterday, at the White House briefing it was predicted that this week will see an exponential increase in deaths. Death is all around us – in the news, in our lives, and in our journey of faith. What will we hold onto? What will sustain us? What is your source of hope?

People of God, we cannot save ourselves. We, as a people, will disappoint. We will fall short. Our hope must come from outside ourselves.

As you journey through the next few days, I invite you to lean into gratitude and compassion. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and practice loving others. And in the midst of it all, ask what is your source of hope?

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