I’ve been thinking lately about some weighty words: Kindness, Community, Family, Friendship.
Wherever we live on this planet: isolated rural area, small town, medium sized city or densely populated metropolis, we are feeling the impact of this pandemic. Our lives have changed and will continue to change.
People are afraid, and the fear is bringing out the best and the worst in us: deliberate and concerted efforts at kindness and actions or speech that are thoughtless, angry, or even hateful.
It is easy to respond to the negativity being expressed with anger and judgement. “How can they be so stupid? Don’t they know they are putting others at risk?” This is a normal reaction. However, another word I’ve been thinking about suggests a different response: compassion.
Compassion acknowledges that everyone’s experience is not the same. That everyone doesn’t have the same resources – or even the same skills for coping with a difficult situation. Compassion realizes the negative actions of others are flowing from pain or fear.
I am extremely lucky. My employer has arranged for all staff to work from home. I’m in a very small town – mostly individual houses with lots of open space – so it is easy to maintain social distancing. The house is paid for, and there is plenty of money to pay the bills. My family is healthy.
Other than working from home, the direct impact on me due to COVID is slight. I’ve stopped “in person” readings for now but continue them long distance through phone and email. I limit my travel to a weekly trip to the grocery store. There is also no visiting family members, getting a haircut or having my nails done. That’s me. However, here are a few of the things that many people around me ARE experiencing:
- Loss of income due to layoff, furlough, reduction in hours, or employer closing
- Possible permanent closure of my small business
- Death/illness of a family member
- Missing out on school activities like graduation, prom, and spring sports
- Physical pain due to my “non-essential” surgery being canceled
- Mental health issues related to increased stress
- Loss of medical coverage or housing
- Feelings of loneness and isolation – made worse by the lack of a good phone/internet connection
- Frustrations of working from home while trying to cope with a child’s school needs
Compassion reminds me that I need to view a person’s behavior through the lens of their reality, rather than my own. Is the pain of missing all the things related to a student’s senior year of high school as “bad” as the loss of a job or a loved one to this virus? Objectively – to me – the answer is “No.” But that doesn’t diminish the pain of the person coping with the experience. Whatever the circumstance, for the person feeling the pain, it is real, valid, and sometimes overwhelming.
I find that compassion leads me to kindness and that kindness tempers my response. I have a choice. I can succumb to my own fear and respond with anger and frustration, or I can follow compassion’s lead. I can acknowledge the person spiritually, offer them help grounding, and connect them to God instead.
By Rev. Heidi Buswell