Yes, this is my 2nd blog post in a week. I have more time now … and writing always helps to center me. Some of this one just came pouring out. Hope you enjoy and comment!
This week on Next Door, my neighborhood online group, one woman told about her nephew who works at a store deemed essential. Customers are not keeping a 6-foot distance and one woman sneezed in his face. She begged us to follow social-distancing orders. I felt so bad for her nephew. I didn’t know what else to do, so I added him to my prayer list … which is growing quite long.
One of my Cincinnati friends emailed that she had been to the grocery. She expressed appreciation to the check-out cashier for continuing to work. She got a thank you in return. Her cashier said many customers had been treating the staff badly.
I have been guilty of taking my anxieties out on service people in stores. I know better and I don’t always do better. That is not the person I aspire to be. And so, even before we were hit with COVID 19, I took action to remind me to stop that nasty behavior.
During the stress generating COVID 19 pandemic, I think we need to double our efforts to be intentional about spreading love, kindness, and appreciation. We need to be as concerned about the safety of those who serve us as we are for our own.
Let’s Focus on Life-giving Stories
This morning I listened to Krista Tippett’s podcast, “On Being,” while working in the garden. I found quite enlightening and hopeful her 2016 conversation with an unfamiliar-to-me writer, historian, and activist, Rebecca Solnit.
Drawing on and popularizing the incredible work of disaster sociologists, Rebecca writes about disasters and the effect upon people. She says people live and die by stories. There were vicious, survival-of-the-fittest stories during Hurricane Katrina. Many people died unnecessarily because of those stories.
And they (disaster sociologists) say there’s no such thing as a natural disaster, meaning that in an earthquake, it’s buildings that fall on you. So what are the building codes? Who lives in substandard housing? Who lives on the floodplain? Who gets evacuated? Who gets left behind? ~Rebecca Solnit
There are also life-giving stories … of a lot of people coming together in myriad ways to keep New Orleans alive … to reform institutions around justice.
… there’s a way a disaster throws people into the present and sort of gives them this supersaturated immediacy that also includes a deep sense of connection. It’s as though in some violent gift you’ve been given a kind of spiritual awakening where you’re close to mortality in a way that makes you feel more alive; you’re deeply in the present and can let go of past and future and your personal narrative, in some ways. You have shared an experience with everyone around you, and you often find very direct, but also metaphysical senses of connection to the people you suddenly have something in common with. ~Rebecca Solnit
… the big spiritual question. How do you stay awake? How do you stay in that deeper consciousness of that present-mindedness, that sense of non-separation, and compassion, and engagement, and courage, which is also a big part of it, and generosity. People are not selfish and greedy. ~Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca told Krista several stories about the good that comes from disasters and unexpected events. This is not to discount the profound suffering that COVID 19 is ushering into our lives. But because of the wisdom gained from past experiences dealing with earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, to name a few, we can have hope.
AVAZZ is a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere. They are now encouraging us to join or start a Facebook “Viral Kindness” group … to connect, identify ways we can help each other, assist the most vulnerable, and share wisdom, hope and kindness.
I just heard that doctors studying to be surgeons at the University of Southern California have suspended their instruction to train to be critical-care nurses … because that where the need is now. I bet that will make them better surgeons in the long run. Apparently medical schools are sending their students out to be of help to the beleaguered medical personnel on the front lines.
In My Corner of the World
Kathy, one of my friends who grocery shopped for us last week, told me about her “spiritual” experience at the grocery store. She was flooded with gratitude for all these people continuing to work even though they could be exposed. She thanked them for continuing to do their jobs for the benefit of the rest of us.
After hearing this, I remembered that action I had taken weeks before to remind myself to behave according to who I aspire to be. I designed and ordered this card from VistaPrint.
I was inspired by my friend, Ruth, and her sister, Margaret. They have been passing out similar cards for years.
The cards arrived while I was sick with the flu … before the COVID 19 outbreak. I self-quarantined even before we were ordered to do so. I totally forgot about the cards.
Now that I remembered them, I wondered how I could pass them out while self-quarantining and mandatory social distancing … not to mention stay-at-home orders. I had to find a creative way.
Our neighborhood shares mailboxes. The open door is mine.
I was determined to get an appreciation card to our mail carrier. But s/he didn’t take the one I placed in my box inside an envelope. So, I placed the card inside a baggy with a label, “For the mail carrier” (also inside the baggy) … it was due to rain. Then I scotch taped it to the other side of the box, where s/he inserts the mail.
That worked. The next day, the card was gone. Hooray!!
If it worked for the mail carrier, why not for the garbage collector. I taped my baggy to the garbage can. But I didn’t fasten it securely enough. It blew off.
Fortunately, I was at my computer writing this post when he arrived. I saw him empty my can and he didn’t take the baggy. I ran out to see what happened. The baggy was laying in the lawn. I grabbed it and handed it to him and told him, “I really appreciate your continuing to do your job.”
A big smile crossed his face as he thanked me. Hooray!!
And then oftentimes, the people who do the really important work in disasters, which doesn’t get talked about much, are the neighbors. Who’s going to rescue you when your building collapses? When the ice storm comes and the power goes out? It’s probably going to be the neighbors. ~Rebecca Solnit
My next-door neighbor, Cheryl, has been running errands for us. Saturday, she came to get the receipt for the cat food I had purchased online from Petco to be picked up in the store. I gave her a card because she had also picked up groceries for us when she made a trip to Kroger’s earlier in the week. She seemed touched.
I gave her a card to give to the cashier at the pet food store. She said the cashier really appreciated it.
I’m not a morning person. But 7 am is Senior Citizen time at the grocery. So, Tuesday I made my first foray out. In addition to my verbal expressions, I handed a card to the check-out cashier and another to the young woman sanitizing the carts. They expressed appreciation for being seen and valued. Don’t we all need that?
I didn’t watch much TV today, but on the little I watched, I saw lots of stories of people spreading kindness in all kinds of creative ways. One child wrote a thank you note to her garbage collector. He was so touched, he cried. 🙂
I’m encouraged by these life-giving stories. A crisis has the potential to bring out the best in us or the worst in us. I hope the best is rising to the top like cream. And I want to be a part of it.
My joy for today: The daffodils in my front garden are all in bloom!!!