I cried this morning when I prayed. Hard. I surprised myself with just how much fear is lurking beneath the surface of my optimism and hope. This is all very real.
I have been encouraging myself with a quote from Mr. Rogers. It was taught to him by his mother. She told him, when tragedy strikes, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
And it’s 100% true.
I have been encouraged by things I have seen in the news recently about how neighbors have banded together. They have delivered humor where they could not bring hugs. And hope. And friendliness. And simple recognition of each other’s existence. We are being reminded right now about who our neighbor really is.
Don’t worry, though. We’ll forget it again when this is all over. Most of it. Not all.
But we will indeed forget about our unity again, at least a bit, because of one incredible feature of our humanity. It is the reason some of us have employed our higher communal and neighborly instincts at this time, and it is the reason we will dispense with them again when it’s over. We are an incredibly adaptable species.
Our ability to adapt to changing circumstances is the reason we are the dominant species on this planet. Of course, we must continue to be more responsible with that power, but it is what has brought us to this moment, both good and bad.
The same arc of history that bends toward justice, however, bends also toward unity. For they are of the same substance, really. We are built to solve problems, as well as celebrate victories, as a family. At the end of this crisis, we shall perhaps celebrate and enjoy our enhanced unity for a moment while it lasts still to that degree, but we will first have to care for the bereaved and ill. Even the optimist in me knows that moment, too, will come. Our forward growth as a civilization always comes at a price.
But look for evidence of our evolving adaptability in between the lines on the news. Turn it off once in a while as well. Don’t listen endlessly to the talking heads on the 24-hour news outlets. Their job is to make sure that there’s always news to broadcast so that people can tune in at any point. Watching it endlessly for fear you will miss something is not its proper use. It will only enhance your anxiety, preventing you from being as adaptable as you might otherwise be. Most of our adaptability comes from our emotional state. Care for it as equally as your physical health.
Acknowledge the power of your own adaptability right now. We think we hate change, mostly because we do, but most changes occur without receiving much notice from us. Things change on us all the time, every day, and we brush these off far more often than we are troubled by them. Recognize that you are more adaptable than you are probably aware.
There will be two categories of people during this outbreak. There will be those who struggle desperately as we proceed through it. Some, though, will not be troubled by it much at all. To those of you in the second category, please be mindful of, and pray, for those in the first. Serve them where and when you can.
Be in touch with people. Be sure which of the above two categories they fit into and help those who need it. The food shortages many people will experience will not be because the shelves are empty at the grocery store. It will be because they can’t afford food anymore. Give generously to food banks, those of you whose jobs are not at risk. Give cash donations rather than canned goods so they can purchase fresh food as well as fill the gaps in their revolving inventories in real time.
Look to the internet as your gateway to the rest of the world, and cultivate beautiful things with it. Turn your cheek from complaints and abuse. Unfriend, or at least unfollow, those whose reaction it is to bring others down. Switch them off and offer higher vibratory content of your own. We could change the world during this chapter by that choice alone.
I wept this morning because it’s all so overwhelming. My heart can hardly stand the thought of what’s to come. But at the same time, I know we have survived worse than this and been made better through the odyssey of it. We grow together more deeply as a family each time we face a trial such as this.
I shall continue to look for the helpers in my neighborhood and elsewhere. I thank the late Mr. Fred Rogers for the legacy of his ministry to us all. And in his memory, I will look for the other teachers like him in my search for comfort. One or two in particular come to mind.
In my prayers, I give thanks for the leaders, I give thanks for the teachers, I give thanks for the people, and I give thanks for the Earth. I am grateful for the undiscovered solutions to this crisis, the seeds of which already exist in some corner of the world in the creativity of our better minds. Thank you for the existence of our human saviors, even as they have yet to complete their task. That moment shall come.
In the meanwhile, may peace flow from us all and encircle the world, evermore. And may good health be your constant companion as well as to those whom you love and hold dear. Amen.
Wil Darcangelo, M.Div., is the minister at First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and of First Church of Christ, Unitarian, in Lancaster. He is also the founding director of the Tribe Mentorship Project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.