I hope you all had a nice holiday. Over the holiday weekend, I spent a lot of time on my church grounds selling Christmas trees. I head up that effort for our church, and it involves the purchase and transportation of about 200 trees from Vermont which we sell on the weekends after Thanksgiving. While those weekends are busy and tiring, it is also a time when we see our broader neighborhood community come together. It takes a team effort between the person buying and our group of church volunteers to select the “perfect” tree, cut the base to the proper length, and secure it to the top of their car. During that process, we often share stories of Christmas traditions. It is truly a joyous celebration in anticipation of the holiday to come.
On Sunday morning, as I prepared to go to the church for tree selling, I read an opinion piece in the New York Times. A Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Hearts, written by Pope Francis is beautifully written and I would encourage you all to read it. I will summarize the parts that touched me the most. He uses the Covid crisis as a metaphor for all of the crises we face, both personally and as a community. He says “In every personal “Covid,” so to speak, in every “stoppage,” what is revealed is what needs to change: our lack of internal freedom, the idols we have been serving, the ideologies we have tried to live by, the relationships we have neglected.”
The Pope goes on to speak about a serious illness he had at age 21 and how dedicated the nurses were in providing for his care. “They taught me what it is to use science but also to know when to go beyond it to meet particular needs. And the serious illness I lived through taught me to depend on the goodness and wisdom of others.” He notes that he prays for the health care workers during Covid and that “Whether or not they were conscious of it, their choice testified to a belief: that it is better to live a shorter life serving others than a longer one resisting that call.” He further notes that “they are the saints next door” and “the antibodies to the virus of indifference.”
Beyond just paying tribute to the heroic first responders and health care workers, Pope Francis is making a larger point. Covid will eventually pass but there are thousands of other crises that are less visible that need our attention. He questions how we will deal with those crises. He says “If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain” and that “This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of.”
He closes the article by noting that “The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone. What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can build a better, different, human future.”
What the Pope calls solidarity, I think of as community. We now often hear people say that “we’re all in this together.” That thinking should not be limited to the Covid crisis. We can all point to those, living or passed on, who helped shape who we are and how we live our lives. Without those helpers: family, friends, educators, leaders and yes, the government, we would not be where we are or who we are. Sometimes we are the ones in need of help, sometimes we are the helpers, and sometimes we are both at the same time.
This week’s selection is:
The Empathy Effect: 7 Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We LIVE, LOVE WORK AND CONNECT Across Differences by Helen Riess, MD
Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass