On Friday, New York Times Columnist and PBS commentator David Brooks wrote an article called “Pandemics Kill Compassion, Too.” In it he remarks, “Some disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes, can bring people together, but if history is any judge, pandemics generally drive them apart.” This was very sad news to me. I was operating under the belief that this crisis would bring us together. All of us are afraid. All of us are at risk in some way. All of us need each other. Why would we not be together?
Yet I spent this morning worshipping with people at The Table UMC sitting in our family room, watching a Facebook Live feed. We were not together with other church members. Yet it was far more of a shared experience than I expected. The music transported and connected me. The sermon helped us think about “recalibrating” our lives in the wake of these days and in light of our faith. The prayer opened me up to the Holy. Even the Facebook message comments during the service connected me with others. I would have rather traveled to the church building at 5265 H Street, but I was at church nonetheless. The time brought us together.
Yet social distancing and fears about this pandemic are driving us apart and testing our compassion. Gatherings have been canceled. Hugs are withheld. Visits are postponed. I have been taking steps toward volunteer opportunities that I am now reconsidering. What is right to do for the good of our neighborhood, society, and world? I just heard a report that it is recommended that all people over 70 should self quarantine. Does the aging population need even more isolation? If this is true, how will I reach out?
So for now, in service of the larger good, I will practice social distancing, isolate when necessary, and even self quarantine if need be. But I pray that I don’t let go of who I really am—part of a larger whole, connected to all people, sharing this planet and its resources. I am struck by the lyrics from a music group called Young Oceans who sing about this reality in a song called “Are We Not One”:
O are we rivers, coursing every valley
O are we waves upon the shores of time
O are we stardust gathered through the ages
Are we not dreams of the one eternal mind
O are we trees rising to the heavens
O are we flowers unfettered by the thorn
O are we pillars of a great eternal temple
Are we not one, O Lord, are we not Yours
In these days of separation, may we still find ways to live as one.
Spiritual Practice: Being Informed by truth
The best travel experiences come with some preparedness. Accurate information is our friend. So it is with life. So it is with these days we are now entering. Here is a link to some helpful (and I think truthful) articles that are good preparation for these days ahead: