April 3, 2020

Look for the Heros

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    “Look for the helpers,” my hero would remind us. When bad things happen there are always heroes who help. Mr. Roger’s advice was supposedly for the children, but don’t we all need to be reminded: When bad things happen there are always heroes who help.

    This time is no different. So I look for the heroes and I see them. Everywhere.

    I see you patiently restocking the shelves at the store, keeping us nourished and reassured that there is enough to go around.

    I see you going to work at the hospital, risking your own health so you can make others well.

    I see you delivering food, packages and mail through deserted streets, keeping our economy moving.

    I see you in the lab, measuring carefully, hoping your efforts will lead to a vaccine to inoculate the whole world.

    I see you making art and sending it into the world via a screen, reminding us that truth and beauty alway matter.

    I see you with four grocery lists in your hand, making certain your neighbors have what they need too.

    I see you coding at your keyboard, keeping isolated people connected.

    I see you alone in a hospital room, caring for your newborn baby all by yourself even after a cesarian because no visitors are allowed in the postpartum rooms.

    I see you going to work while the rest of your family stays home because you are essential.

    I see you making certain that your students have internet connection so they can learn how to subtract five from thirteen.

    I see you putting the facts together so we understand why this time is different.

    I see you pouring your blood into a clear plastic bag, to be sent far away and put into the body of a stranger.

    I see you—in the mirror. The most strange hero of all. You stayed home today, put your life on hold, joined in this utterly unique agreement to save lives by doing less, by holding still, by sheltering in place.

    There is no way we can possibly deny it—we are part of an interconnected web of life.

    Is it possible that I saved someone’s life today simply by sitting on the couch? By washing my hands? By waving at my neighbor from a distance?

How are you feeling? I’m asked again and again.

I need a new word.

How am I feeling?

Acutely grateful for the blessings in my life; Scared and sad for the people who are losing so much; Filled with awe at the sacrifices we are collectively making to care for the common good. Grateful, afraid, heartbroken and awestruck.

Is there one word for so many feelings all at once? In German? In any human language? Maybe only in language of the human heart.

—Laila Ibrahim

March 28, 2020

Lockdown

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Yes, there is fear.
Yes, there is isolation.
Yes, there is panic buying.
Yes, there is sickness.
Yes, there is even death.

But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of the family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way
All over the world, people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.

So we pray and we remember that
Yes, there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes, there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes, there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes, there is sickness.
But there does not have to be the disease of the soul
Yes, there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

 

-This week’s meditation comes from a Catholic Priest,
Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM of Ireland

 

March 20, 2020

Wash Your Hands

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We humans are relearning to wash our hands.
Washing our hands is an act of love
Washing our hands is an act of care
Washing our hands is an act that puts the hyper-vigilant body at ease
Washing our hands helps us return to ourselves by washing away what does not serve.

Wash your hands
like you are washing the only teacup left that your great grandmother carried across the ocean, like you are washing the hair of a beloved who is dying, like you are washing the feet of Grace Lee Boggs, Beyonce, Jesus, your auntie, Audre Lorde, Mary Oliver- you get the picture.
Like this water is poured from a jug your best friend just carried for three miles from the spring they had to climb a mountain to reach.
Like water is a precious resource
made from time and miracle

Wash your hands and cough into your elbow, they say.
Rest more, stay home, drink water, have some soup, they say.
To which I would add: burn some plants your ancestors burned when there was fear in the air,
Boil some aromatic leaves in a pot on your stove until your windows steam up.
Open your windows
Eat a piece of garlic every day. Tie a clove around your neck.
Breathe.

My friends, it is always true, these things.
It has already been time.
It is always true that we should move with care and intention, asking
Do you want to bump elbows instead? with everyone we meet.
It is always true that people are living with one lung, with immune systems that don’t work so well, or perhaps work too hard, fighting against themselves. It is already true that people are hoarding the things that the most vulnerable need.
It is already time that we might want to fly on airplanes less and not go to work when we are sick.
It is already time that we might want to know who in our neighborhood has cancer, who has a new baby, who is old, with children in another state, who has extra water, who has a root cellar, who is a nurse, who has a garden full of elecampane and nettles.
It is already time that temporarily non-disabled people think about people living with chronic illness and disabled folks, that young people think about old people.
It is already time to stop using synthetic fragrances to not smell like bodies, to pretend like we’re all not dying. It is already time to remember that those scents make so many of us sick.
It is already time to not take it personally when someone doesn’t want to hug you.
It is already time to slow down and feel how scared we are.

We are already afraid, we are already living in the time of fires.

When fear arises,
and it will,
let it wash over your whole body instead of staying curled up tight in your shoulders.
If your heart tightens,
contract
and expand.
science says: compassion strengthens the immune system
We already know that, but capitalism gives us amnesia
and tricks us into thinking it’s the thing that protect us
but it’s the way we hold the thing.
The way we do the thing.

Those of us who have forgotten amuletic traditions,
we turn to hoarding hand sanitizer and masks.
we find someone to blame.
we think that will help.
want to blame something?
Blame capitalism. Blame patriarchy. Blame white supremacy.

It is already time to remember to hang garlic on our doors
to dip our handkerchiefs in thyme tea
to rub salt on our feet
to pray the rosary, kiss the mezuzah, cleanse with an egg.
In the middle of the night,
when you wake up with terror in your belly,
it is time to think about stardust and geological time
redwoods and dance parties and mushrooms remediating toxic soil.
it is time
to care for one another
to pray over water
to wash away fear
every time we wash our hands

 

-Dori Midnight

March 17, 2020

Pandemic

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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

 

(Lynn is a UU minister / poet who also works for the Church of the Larger Fellowship)