Let’s Get Real

woman in green and white stripe shirt covering her face with white mask
Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com

Let’s get real for a moment:

  • Nobody likes to wear a mask. They are uncomfortable and hot, especially in the humid summertime of Houston, Texas. We wear masks not because some lawmaker is mandating us to do so, but because it is the right thing to do. Our mask wearing insures a less likely or rapid spread of Covid-19. Sometimes the good of the people as a whole should be more important than our personal desires. We should all mask up and do so because it shows consideration for the people around us.
  • Our medical community is working hard to keep us safe and to provide care for anyone who contracts the virus. Neither they nor hospitals are in cahoots to keep certain medicines or therapies from us nor are they simply attempting to make more money off of our fears of the virus. In fact, they are continually communicating with one another to find the best procedures that appear to work. The fact that our numbers of dying are slowing compared to the numbers of positive cases is a clear indication that they are more and more often winning the battle with Covid-19. To insinuate that they are somehow complicit in a plot to deceive us is not just absurd, but incredibly insulting.
  • We are long past the moment to point fingers and lay blame for the destruction that Covid-19 has caused in our country. At this point who cares if China hid the truth about the virus? What does it matter if we did this or that wrong? We have to begin again from where we are. We need to look forward not backward. We must focus our efforts on finding solutions rather than making accusations. 
  • Anyone who thinks that face to face schooling will be anything like normal is living in a dream world. There will be much ado about masks and social distancing. It will become the new battle between students who push the envelope and teachers who want to protect them. Children will not be able to hug and gather in groups but you bet they will want to try. Just moving groups from one classroom to another will become a difficult endeavor. It is going to be a bumpy ride for sure.
  • Those of us who are making every possible attempt to help keep the level of contagion down get quite frustrated when we see images of people gathering in large groups without masks. We have grown weary of those who continually demand their rights without any concern for those of us who want to get out and about as much as they do. We sense that each time a beach is crowded or a huge party is held the goal of getting Covid 19 under control slips away just a bit more. Those photos of people smiling while crowded together do not delight us. They frighten us into thinking that we will never reach a point of  being able to feel comfortable with them again.
  • There are people in our midst who lost their jobs as a direct result of Covid 19. Most of them were hard working individuals before all of this happened. They went to work each day for the good of their families and they had wonderful plans for the future. Now they sit at home vying for job after job only to learn that they are in competition with hundreds of others. They are not enjoying their new found freedom from lack of employment. They are not thinking how much better it has been to get checks from the government than having to actually work. They have watched their savings dwindle and the bills piling up. They worry that they may lose their cars or their homes. The rest of us should be just as concerned about their security as we are about our own.
  • Every single death anywhere in the world is a tragedy. Just because it does not affect us personally does not in any way make it less horrific. The elderly person who dies will be missed by someone as much as the forty year old who leaves behind a family. The Hispanic who does not make it should cause us to grieve even if his immigration status was illegal. Those numbers that we see represent real people who walked among us and were loved. If we are lucky enough not to be touched by Covid 19 we should be grateful, not uncaring. We should be dedicated to doing whatever it takes to lessen the likelihood of spreading contagion.
  • We need to be willing to be creative in our usual celebrations. That child of ours can have a happy birthday without a big party. I’ve “attended” a virtual baby shower. I’ve witnessed Happy Birthday parades in my neighborhood. I’ve seen images of friends visiting elderly loved ones through glass doors and windows. I have friends who have taken RV vacation trips without gathering in crowded places. I’ve been on Zoom conferences for Easter and Father’s Day. I have “attended” mass every Sunday via YouTube. I’ve received cancellations of parties for graduates of medical school and for future weddings. I have managed to exercise every single day without going to a crowded gym. We can still find ways to be “together” without risking infection.
  • We need to spend less time listening to people running for political offices and more hearing from medical and economic experts who have nothing to lose in speaking the truth.
  • We should avoid theories of hoaxes and attempts to create a fairytale vision of the pandemic. The likelihood that the entire world has joined to make trouble for a single person is incredibly low.
  • We need to support anyone who must return to work by insuring their safety and by doing our utmost to follow guidelines that will help to slow down the spread of the virus. If we really don’t need to do something that involves taking risks, we should consider just staying home. We can do many things to support our local businesses and the economy without setting up situations that have the potential to become virus spreading incidents.
  • We all miss the world as is was five months ago. We all watched that ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Day and made wonderful plans for 2020. We have lost many things like trips, graduations, time with friends and family, freedoms. When all is said and done nothing compares to the loss of health or life or economic security. If we can’t work together to get through this unprecedented time then we are surely doomed.
  • It’s time to get real.

Who Are You Staying Home For?

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Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York created a campaign called “Who Are You Staying Home For?” It puts the rationale for our stay at home advisories into perspective because there are valid reasons for each of us to isolate not just for ourselves but for the good of someone else. It got me to thinking about my intentions for keeping to myself for almost five weeks now.

I have to admit that I do not wish to contract Covid-19. I tend to believe that if I were to do so I would survive just fine, but I don’t know that for sure. Exposing myself to the virus would be a kind of Russian roulette that our healthcare workers are forced to endure on a daily basis. They don’t need another case to deal with and so it would be incredibly selfish of me to flaunt the directives and potentially place myself in harms way. So I stay home for all of the dedicated individuals who are responding so valiantly to caring for those unfortunate souls who have somehow caught the virus. I hope that somehow I and others might lighten their load if we manage to stay well.

I’ve also been quite worried about my husband, Mike. He only recently had surgery to correct major blockage in the arteries of his heart. He is doing well but I believe that if he were to catch Covid-19 it would be quite dangerous. He’s seventy two years old with heart disease, a combination that does not bode well for anyone who comes down with the virus. I am vigilantly staying away from any situation that might be a source of the disease. I order all of my groceries and when they arrive I have a routine for disinfecting them that I use religiously. My hands are cracked and quite ugly from all of the washing to which I have subjected them. I am obsessively compulsive about taking all of the precautions quite soberly knowing that if I get flippant and catch Covid-19 there is a good chance that I will infect Mike.

I’m staying home for the people that I have never met who might accidentally catch the virus from me if I become infected and travel brazenly around my neighborhood and my city. I don’t want to be that person who spreads disease because I am unwilling to be careful. I don’t want to be someone who assumes that we are being duped into a draconian situation that is based on some grand hoax. If I flaunt the rules and I am wrong I will only be complicit in prolonging society’s suffering. I’m staying home so that we have a chance at getting back to normal sooner rather than later.

I’m staying home because I truly believe that God has given us the intellect to know what we must do not just to save ourselves but also as many of our fellow humans as possible. He has placed many brilliant doctors and scientists in our midst who believe that if we can flatten the curve of contagion there will be fewer lives lost. Why would I not listen to the experts? Why would I be so arrogant as to believe that without any knowledge of viruses and medicine I know more than those who have studied these things?

I’m staying home for my children and grandchildren so that they will have one less person to worry about because I know that they are indeed concerned about me. I want them to be confident that I am going to be fine because I am not taking any unnecessary risks. Staying inside my house is a very small sacrifice to provide them with a greater sense of well being.

I’m staying home because this virus really is novel. There is so much more that we must learn about it. I want the rise of emergencies to subside enough that those who study such things will have more time to discover the secrets of Covid-19. We have to know exactly how it works and what if anything is capable of stopping it both before and after it happens. I want to help clear the hospital decks so that this kind of work can commence without interruption.

I’m staying home because I know that it is the right thing to do. I understand that sometimes my liberties must be secondary to the good of all. I may have a right to be cavalier but if doing so endangers others then I am wrong to insist on bucking the system.

I’m staying home so that those who have lost their jobs may possibly get back to work sooner rather than later. I understand that we must all make sacrifices and be willing to help each other even when we are once again allowed to emerge into the outside world.. There will be much need for support and I want to be healthy and ready to do my part.

Who are you staying home for?

A Message For All Time

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This is Holy Week in the Christian world, a time to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. His was a story that changed the world and is embraced to this very day by millions across the globe. After weeks of sacrifice and good works during Lent we pause to consider Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem when people lined the streets to see him, laying precious palm leaves in his path as a sign of respect and adulation. This no doubt only added to the concern of political forces who worried that his growing popularity might lead to rebellion and so the time seemed right to convict him with trumped up charges of crimes against the state.

Of course Jesus saw it coming and told his apostles in a final gathering that one among them would betray him. It was Judas Iscariot who led the Roman soldiers to Jesus by identifying him with a kiss. The trial was swift and the punishment was brutal. Jesus was nailed to a cross alongside other criminals. His pain was excruciating and his captors taunted him with commands that he prove his divinity by coming down from the cross. His apostles meanwhile were hiding behind locked doors, afraid that they too might be captured and found guilty of their association with him. Only Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, a cousin and a kind stranger stood at the foot of the cross to watch him die. All seemed dark and unbearable after the triumphs of the past. His followers must have wondered if they had been fooled, if it was all over.

Three days later when the tomb was opened Jesus was gone. His apostles still hiding were told that their prophet and savior had risen from the dead. From that moment forward the story of Jesus spread throughout the world until today Christians around the globe continue to celebrate the glory of his life and his word.

Of course we know that many did not then and do not now believe that Jesus was a savior, the son of God. Some have their own alternate prophets and beliefs. Some continue to wait patiently for the true savior to come. Others do not believe in any form of higher power, thinking it foolish to even consider the idea a being who watches over us and guides us in our behavior toward one another. They think of prayers and religious ceremonies as silliness. The world is made of believers and nonbelievers of every sort. We humans have often injected our personal thoughts and feelings onto the teachings of religion or disbelief. Little wonder that the whole idea of Jesus as God is confusing to some.

I am a Catholic, a member of a religious group that some believe is not Christian, although I can’t imagine why such a differentiation would be made. Mine was the first organized church to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Over time there were those who began to question the direction of Catholicism and so they made efforts to reform Christianity by creating new sects. The variety that evolved from such efforts makes it clear that even among those of us who strive to adhere to the teachings of Jesus there can be great differences in how we react to and interpret his words. Somehow just as with nation building we humans have complicated the most basic essence of Jesus which he so very clearly iterated and reiterated while he still walked on the earth.

Jesus represented a new way of thinking and doing things and his message did not involve thousands of little dictums and instructions. He made his message very simple by example and word. We are to love one another, not just those who think and act and look like us, but everyone. That is essentially all we need to know. It does not take a magnificent cathedral or a list of rules to follow his example, but he showed us that following his commandment of love may be difficult. Our intentions may be misunderstood and like him we may be abused for our beliefs. We will endure hardship and suffering just as he did. The miracle of Jesus is not found in riches or success or lack of difficulties but in the comfort that he provides us with his teachings and his love. He did not come down from the cross to save himself because he wanted us to know that part of our humanity requires enduring difficulties.  He helped us to understand that the rewards for following his commandment to love will be immeasurable but not in the usual ways that we interpret good fortune.

As the world struggles with a virus that has changed our lives in ways that are daunting to comprehend it is fitting that we think of Jesus from behind our locked doors in the safely of our homes just as his apostles did so long ago. He would want us to think of all of the people on the earth with love and compassion. The best way to honor him and his teachings is not found in judging one another but only in love. Our prayers should focus not on asking for special favors from him but on pleading that we have the courage to always do what is right and just. The glory of the Easter message lies in hope and a determination to continue to follow the goodness of Jesus throughout our lives. He is with us in all things, even our darkest hours. The cup of agony was not lifted from him and so too must we cope with this moment doing our best to remember all of humankind and its salvation, not just our own. He taught us the way to live and in doing so became a light for all the world.

In this holy Easter season I pray that those who feel lost will find comfort. I pray that those who are hated will find love. I pray that the sick will be healed. I pray that the doctors and nurses and first responders and all people engaged in the fight against Covid-19 will be honored and supported for being the finest possible examples of the kind of people that Jesus asked us to be. May this be a glorious Easter in which we love and respect all people just as Jesus would have done. Go forth and be kind.

Explorations of Our Being

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What is this mind that we humans have? How does it work and how much of it goes unused because we have yet to tap into the totality of its power? Why is there a disconnect between how I see myself from the point of view of my thoughts and how I really appear in my physical reality? What causes some of our memories to remain vividly intact for all time and others to fade into oblivion? What happens when a mind becomes muddled, filled with extreme sadness, fears or paranoid thoughts? These are questions that have confounded me for years. They are the kind of queries that have guided the thoughts of brilliant individuals and ordinary souls for centuries. Somehow we have obtained more and more of a grasp on our physical being over time but clear knowledge of the complexities of our brains still remains somewhat elusive.

We humans don’t simply react to the world around us. We contemplate it sometimes to the point of obsession. We have an innate desire to dream, analyze and restructure. There is no reason for us to enhance the world beyond our most basic physical needs and yet we do. We don’t simply endure the unfolding of our lives but instead reflect on all that has happened to us, sometimes with joy in such remembrance and sometimes with great sorrow.

Memories are a remarkable aspect of our humanity. We quite often retain vivid pictures of things that we have experienced even decades after they occurred. Ironically the very incidents that we would most like to forget because of the pain that they brought us are sometimes the ones that remain the clearest in our minds. What is it about trauma that etches it so deeply in our psyches?

On the day of my father’s death I was only eight years old and yet I can recall details about every aspect of that horrific event from the time that I awoke to hear my mother weeping until the end of the evening when she and I cried in each other’s arms. I can see colors and hear sounds as though all of my senses were somehow heightened in a way that I had never before experienced. Even more than sixty years later thoughts of that day bring feelings so visceral that they still cause pain.

So too it has been with more generalized occurrences that impacted the whole of society with profound consequences. I know exactly where I was sitting and what I was doing when I first heard of the assassination of President Kennedy. I do not know if we had a Thanksgiving dinner that year but I can tell you where I was and what went through my mind when I watched the president’s funeral procession and witnessed the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.

I still catch my breath when I think of the planes flying through the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I literally get a flutter of anxiety in my heart when I picture their dramatic collapse. I hear the screams and feel the terror that filled my thoughts in the split second in which I realized the reality of what was happening.

Over the years it has been the most horrific moments that have stayed permanently embossed on my psyche. I am filled with grief when I think of the first time that I truly understood the extent of my mother’s mental illness. It coincided with the first landing on the moon which is only a blur in my mind compared to the recollections that I retain of her pain.

I am haunted by images of the flooding from hurricane Harvey in my beloved city and the aftermath of destruction in the homes of family members and friends. I still get a catch in my throat when I think of how I felt when I saw what had happened after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, a place I think of as a sister city.

So it goes with my memories. I barely recall the details of my college graduation or even my carefully planned wedding but I can describe the tiniest of particulars on the last days of my mother’s life. I wonder what it is about my mind that clings so tenaciously to thoughts of events that I would prefer to forget. What kind of chemical or physical reactions occur in our brains that causes such impressions to stay with us? What is it about our very humanity that stirs us to contemplate such things?

I try not to become too obsessive about such ideas. I purposely busy myself when my ruminating ventures into territory that is too dark and yet I am fascinated by the mere possibilities of unlocking the inner workings of our complex being. Understanding the mind was at one time forbidden fruit. Now we have discovered so much about how it all works and yet there is still so much mystery when it comes to comprehending the most spiritual aspect of our being. Exploring the territory of our very being has been the quest of philosophers, physicians, scientists and theologians and still we are in the dark when it comes to the how and why of our deepest thoughts.

  

Patience

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I have trouble being patient, even after seventy one years of knowing that the world more often than not moves slowly. I suppose that I have become a bit better at waiting recently. I’ve leaned that most of the successes that I have enjoyed came from heard work and a willingness to take the necessary time to make them happen. I tend to be okay with situations over which a have a modicum of control, but I become overly anxious when I am at the mercy of others or even God. I have great faith but I also know that sometimes my prayers won’t be answered in the ways that I expect or in the timeframe that I desire.

We all have wishes, dreams, hopes. None of us are particularly keen on the idea of suffering and yet it is something that we all endure. Some people handle it way better than others because they have learned to have faith and patience that the world is unfolding as it was meant to be. It’s not an easy way of accepting all of life’s challenges, but I know those who have mastered the ability to trust that things will eventually work out.

I often speak of prayer, an activity in which I engage throughout each day. I used to ask for very specific outcomes and then feel disappointed when they didn’t happen. I finally realized that the best prayers are those in which I seek the strength to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to tackle those over which I have some control. The Serenity Prayer is my favorite because it clearly outlines the way we should all think about our pleas to God. Instead so often ask for very specific things and then waver in our beliefs if they do not happen.

I am not much of an evangelist. I know those who very naturally speak of their beliefs and spread the word of God with ease. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable foisting my on feelings on others but I don’t mind talking with them if they ask for guidance. I do understand why it is difficult for some to feel that there is a special power beyond our own humanity. Faith is a kind of gift that is exceedingly difficult to explain, especially when really bad things are happening to people.

We tend to think that a loving God will wipe away sorrows and hurts for those who fully believe in Him. Instead the most faithful sometimes have as many difficulties as the guy who swears that there is no God. I don’t think that any of us are ever guaranteed a perfect life here on earth. What our prayers accomplish in our times of need is not always miraculous. Often it is little more than the comfort of knowing that we are not alone. A little voice in our souls tells us that we can make it through terrible pain.

The hardest times for me are those when I see loved ones hurting. I would much prefer to be able to somehow transfer their pain to me so that they might be happy once again. It’s especially terrible when they tell me that they do not believe that prayers will help them. They deny that any good has ever come from their pleas to God. They see little use for religion and find going to church a waste of precious time. They have taken a very literal stance regarding a higher power. They expect tangible proof and without it they think that those of us who do believe are silly, maybe even a bit superstitious.

I wish that they might feel what I feel because I have endured great loss, great disappointment, great sorrow and always come through feeling ever stronger and more and more loved by God. My talks with Him are my lifeline. I doubt that I would successfully get through many days without the daily conversations that I hold with Him. He knows me quite well and the very idea that He loves me even with all of my silliness and flaws is overwhelmingly powerful. Building an ever more personal relationship with Him brings me joy and patience even on the darkest days.

I am still working on being better at waiting to see what God has in store for me. I have friends like Danny, Eileen, Susan, Martin and Jezael who never seem to question God’s presence. Their love and faithfulness to Him literally shines from every aspect of their lives. They smile when trouble enters their lives confident that God will walk by their sides through all of the storms. They truly inspire me to be less inclined to bouts of fury when it seems to be taking too long for my suffering to ease.

It can be quite difficult to watch the horrors of the world unfold and still have faith. It can try us to witness so much hypocrisy and evil from people who claim to be acting in the name of God. Our faith and patience can be stretched to their very limits, and yet somehow goodness finds a way to sneak into our lives in the most unexpected ways. That’s when I really hear the voice of God reminding me of the bigger picture and of His constant vigilance even when we can’t see it. I’ll keep praying because it brings me great peace. I simply wish that others might find it as well. I have to remind myself to be patient