Sunday, I sat in my living room, a late afternoon sunbeam warming me as I sat crossways in an overstuffed chair, my back leaning against one arm, my legs draped over the other; on the telephone. Again. This time my phone was on mute, listening while others shared in a teleconferenced recovery meeting. We went through the traditional format and introduced ourselves. It was hard, at first, not being able to see others reactions to the conversation, liking speaking into a void. But as people began to share their anxiety and their struggle, as well as their hope and their gratitude, I felt my shoulders release downward with every word and response. As I nodded in silent solidarity, I also began to notice the lump in my throat, constricting with the pent up anxiety that I had not allowed myself to feel before that moment.
I was glad of the telephone then, that no one could see me begin to weep- I felt ashamed at being so afraid, when, as I chided myself, I was one of the privileged- but as the confessions of other’s anxiety found their way into my heart, my own fear rose up and the tears came.
In a meeting, in person, when you struggle not to make the crying face, people respond; they glance in sympathy, they pass you tissues, they pat your arm. But there was no one to do that, and so my fear was able to have its way; full- fledged and an affront to all my good intentions and foundational theology.
I know that tears are healing and letting them come does far more good than attempting to batten down the hatches of your psyche. So I let them come, and the tightness began to ease. Eventually I pressed unmute and shared, although the emotion was still evident in my voice. I told the truth, that my faith was shaky, my fears were high, and I felt powerless- to get to my parents, who are compromised and high risk, to not be able to visit others whom I might be putting in danger, and especially powerless over my rage at the political lassez-faire and callousness. I expressed gratitude for local action. I spoke my own connection to all of it. When I finished, there was a “bing” of a bright pink heart emoji, via text. I stared at it, eyes filling again, for this small and extraordinarily lovely thing.
Others went on to share, and we ended the meeting with gratitude at creating this community of voices. A community unseen but not unfelt, speaking into a silence that was not a void, something new and unexpectedly connected.
As our communities close down our traditional way of being together, I give thanks for the technology that allows us to rediscover alternatives. There is much coming across the internet waves that is beautiful and wise. On Being is sending podcast care packages. The National Audubon Society is sending collections of photos and articles to remind us of the beauty of our world. Poets are waxing eloquent about the compassion that is possible, in spite of our fear. The earth, without humanity’s brutal fingers on her for a few weeks or months, could begin to heal. And all who minister are speaking into the questions as well as the uncertainty, knowing that silence is not a void, and that something new and unexpectedly connected can come.
“A voice on the bare heights is heard,” the prophet Jeremiah says. It seems that clarity is coming, and that the uncertainty, the silence, and even the void will lead us in new and challenging directions. I join my voice with his, and yours, my brothers and sisters, as we lean into to winds of profound change, speaking our love with courage and skill.
Here’s yet one more voice, a poem prayer by Father Richard Hendrick, OFM, Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries, a blessing for this day:
Yes, there is fear.
Yes, there is isolation.
Yes, there is panic buying.
Yes, there is sickness.
Yes, there is even death.
they say that in Wuhan after so many years
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 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 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
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.
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 need 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 disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
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,
Grace and Peace to you,