We’re In Each Other’s World

I’m a little bit upset.  

I was in the bank this week where dad had an account tying up some of his financial matters.  The employee assisting me told a customer who was waiting that as soon as she and I were finished, she’d sanitize the area and be ready for her.  

The customer replied, “We’re living in a different world.  I’m ready to get back to normal.”
I agreed.  “Yes, it is.   I am too.”

Then I asked, “Have you and your family been affected by COVID?”

“No, not at all.  I think it’s all been blown out of proportion!” she answered. “Have you?”

“Yes, I have 7 family members with COVID…”

Then I added this, “ and my dad died with COVID.” 

Have you ever tried to reach out and retrieve the words you just said?  The lady tried.  But they were already out there.

We tend to see things mainly, if not only, in terms of how they personally affect us.  

COVID had not personally touched this lady so COVID must not be a big deal.  “Look at me,” some have said,  “I’m fine!”

I visited last night with a man whose wife is in ICU fighting COVID. She’s been there a week. Yesterday, she experienced a COVID-related heart-attack and is suffering from diminished kidney function.  

This man’s view of COVID is very different than the “bank lobby woman’s” view. 

The difference is experience.   

Spirituality pulls us toward each other to the degree that another’s experience becomes our experience.  

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” Thomas Merton

“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.”  Dalai Lama

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Teresa

“In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength.” Buddha 

“The compassionate are near to God, near to me, near to paradise, and far from hell.”  Prophet Muhammad

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

It is a message we need to hear and heed during COVID and beyond.   

Pope Francis is in “Good Trouble”

Pope Francis has rocked the planet again.  In a documentary titled, “Francesco,” Pope Francis said this about LGBTQ people: “They are children of God and have a right to a family. You can’t kick someone out of a family nor make their life miserable for this.  What we have to have is a civil union law; that way, they are legally covered.” 

Read his words again.  Let them soak in.

“They are children of God”

“…we have to have a civil union law…”

A few weeks earlier, Pope Francis told a group of parents of LGBTQ children that, “God loves your children as they are.  The Church loves your children as they are, because they are children of God.”

Don’t skim over those words.  “God loves your children as they are.”  

These words have the power to heal.  They have the power to stir up anger. 

Yes, the Pope has been praised and pilloried.

I’m on the praise side.  

Yes, his statement falls short of equal marriage, but it certainly throws open the door.  Others, like myself, have, after a long journey, walked through that door and have found on this side of it freedom, love, healing, and, yes, criticism.    

There are some who question whether Francis is a legit Pope.   There are some who have questioned whether I’m legit pastor – or who have concluded I’m a legit heretic.  

The critics point to the Bible and shout, “The Bible clearly says…”. But does it? Does it clearly say?  The so-called “gotcha” verses are often quoted with little understanding of their cultural, historical, grammatical meaning.  I know I don’t fully grasp their meaning.  Do you? 

For example, Paul’s words sound more like he’s referring to straight men using young boys for sex often in religious ceremonies.  He’s describing rape and abuse rather than loving, committed same-sex relationships.   

Well, Pope Francis has gotten himself into some “good trouble” which I hope will, in the words of John Lewis, “redeem the soul of America,” the church, and people around the globe.  

COVID and Dying Alone

A poster to be placed in Dad’s hospice room since COVID kept us out.

Dad died Sunday morning, October 11.

Alone.

I was not there.  My sisters were not there. 

We could not be there.  COVID-19 did not allow it.

On Wednesday, October 7, dad tested positive for COVID-19.  Yes, he was already dying.  That’s why he was in Hospice.  But COVID accelerated his death…and isolated his dying. 

Of all the pains of this pandemic – and there are many – dying alone has to be one of the most intense.  That dad was alone when he died haunts me.  

Oh, I know the Bible verses that assure us that “we are never alone,” but you get the point, don’t you?  I know without a doubt that God was there.  

But we weren’t.

I also know that the kind, competent, considerate nurse was at dad’s bedside minutes before he died, but she had to step out.  When she stepped out, dad slipped away.  I don’t blame the nurse.  Not one little bit.  Medical staff across the country have been heroic as they have served on the front line. They are angels of mercy holding the hands of the dying and spiritually placing those hands into the hands of other angels.   But they do not replace loved ones whom the dying need to be with, speak with, be with, one last time.  

And the loved ones need to be there one last time.

I don’t understand those who deny the severity and impact of the virus. I get a little mad about it.   Today, I just feel sad about it. 

 Where is the compassion toward and empathy for the dying and for the displaced living?  Are people unable or just unwilling to feel it? 

Our heath care workers get it. They have it. Compassion and empathy.

Thank you health care workers for not just caring for the body, but for the soul.