One piece of advice that Matt shared was that when dealing with people who are experiencing a crisis, making meaning out of the situation is not what is needed. He said, “People living in the midst of the chaos of a disaster, do not have the ability and energy required get their heads around the “meaning of it all.” What they desperately need is a purpose.” I got to thinking about how folks can find their purpose in the midst of this Coronavirus pandemic. Some folks are working from home, participating on Zoom meetings for various reasons. Teachers are finding their purpose by continuing to teach children who can no longer attend school in this period of sheltering-in-place. Lawyers are finding purpose by interpreting legislation that our leaders have passed to help us financially get through this time. Doctors and nurses are finding purpose by taking care of the sickest among us. Other hospital staff members have found their purpose in sanitizing surfaces repeatedly to limit the spread of the virus. First responders are getting sick people to hospitals. Professional and volunteer food delivery men and women are bringing meals to other women and men who are no longer able to get to restaurants or grocery stores. Some of our good church folks have even figured out how to make face masks to donate to hospitals. Purpose-finding is happening all around our Conference and all around our nation.
Finding a purpose can be life-giving in this situation for those of us whose work or talents help us in finding that purpose. But what about people who are alone in their homes, cut off from physical contact with others? How can they find a purpose as they stare at a television screen with warnings about this pandemic 24/7? Where is the purpose for those who have been made fearful of fellow human beings? Well, I believe that we are in the middle of a time when doing nothing has become doing something.
We in the church have always maintained that we are, all of us, connected to one another – that we are linked together. It has always been true, although not always evident, that what I do impacts you and what you do I impacts me. That my actions in the Conference office in Hartford have consequences for others living miles and miles away. For years, I swam laps in the pool at my gym in the mornings before work. There were usually several other people swimming in other lanes and I always felt more connected to them than I would on dry land. I felt that the water that was touching me as I swam was also touching them. In my mind, this connectedness was a demonstration of the way we are all of us connected. That the Holy Spirit exists within us, between us, around us, encircling all of us in an invisible web of life was made obvious to me as I swam in the predawn hours. And this connectedness is how everyone who is staying safe at home can find purpose. Those of us who are feeling healthy may indeed be carrying the virus and have the potential to give it to others. Staying home becomes one of the most important purposes that any of us can have in this pandemic.
Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised us all to wear some kind of face covering when we have to leave our homes and be out and about. The CDC did not indicate that this was for our own benefit. We should be wearing face masks to keep others safe from possible infection that we may be carrying without even knowing it. Our national leaders are calling for us to behave in a way that benefits others more than it benefits us because what we do has consequences for others with whom we are connected in ways that go well beyond our conscious knowledge.
We thank God for the first responders and the doctors. We thank God for the nurses and the orderlies. We thank God for food deliverers and pharmacists. We thank God for the people making masks and ventilators. We thank God for truck drivers and grocery store employees. We thank God for many, many more people whose jobs must continue. They are all living into their purpose in this time and serve as disciples, followers of the way of Jesus. But we also thank God for the quiet folks, sequestered at home, sheltering-in-place. We thank God that they too have a purpose that will serve all of us as we live through this pandemic time. They are living and working as disciples of Jesus too, who stay home and wait. We are indeed in the middle of a time when doing nothing has become doing something.
Photo by Hamish Duncan on Unsplash
The Rev. Marilyn Kendrix is Bridge Conference Minister. Kendrix, a 2013 graduate of Yale Divinity, earned that school’s Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize for exceptional promise in pastoral leadership, the highest prize conferred on a graduating student ...