On the good days, I am conscious of the discoveries. This life under COVID-19 has been full of new and beautiful discoveries, both inner and outer. I recently read that while our outings to restaurants, shopping malls and amusement parks have all decreased dramatically, our visits to public parks has increased exponentially. This is certainly true for me. I have discovered gems like little parks, woodlands and prairies while on steep hikes and gentle jaunts all close to where I live. I feel so free and alive in the beautiful green. Now I can tell you where to find the best milkshake in town because I’ve tried them all. When my housemate went on a bread-baking spree and the grocery stores were out of dry yeast, I found myself at the bakery buying live yeast instead.
I have also discovered inner resources: deep compassion, reflective listening and the joy in being still. Hope is no longer abstract. Hope is as sturdy as the early Christian symbol of the anchor that they used to put on their gravestones. I believe in yes. I believe in tomorrow. I believe in the power of us all working together, to watch out for each other and to care for the most vulnerable.
Making these discoveries sometimes doubles me over with stress. How do I keep my vulnerable housemates safe? When do I choose to stay in, and when is it necessary to go out and meet with someone (masked and socially distanced)? Do I go to church? Can I wait until this is all over to ever see my family again? Simple decisions loom large, and I almost drown in the quagmire.
These are my stresses, and I am incredibly privileged to have them. I have a home to stay in. I have a job that I can work virtually. I have the option to stay safe. I am white. I do not have to live with the constant discrimination and pain rampant within our culture of racism. I am not an essential worker or, as one woman described it, a sacrificial worker. I am not laid off. I do not have to navigate and maintain the safety and learning of children who attend school while trying to manage my own work schedule.
Every day, I hold all these concerns in my heart. I widen the compassion in my core. I pray. I trust. I hope. I contribute financially to those in need through my congregation, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. I do not know the answer. Even the phrase “we are all in this together” is starting to get worn and tattered.
I do know that my work at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is one of my causes for hope. People from all walks of life come in their vulnerability, and we listen with the ears of our hearts. We are engaging conversations on racism and transformation, self-care for health providers and grief groups and much more. This helps me make it through. Because in some odd way, even though it is strained, we really are all in this together.
This reflection was first published in Franciscan Spirituality Center’s e-newsletter “Reflections From the Center.” Learn more at www.FSCenter.org.
ABOUT THE RABBLE ROUSER
Sarah Hennessy is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She grew up in North Carolina as an active Quaker and became Catholic in 2000. For her, Jesus’ Messy Business includes falling in love with Christ AND with the People of God! Her heart is on fire for her Franciscan community, poetry, singing, and accompanying people through birth, death and the living that comes in between. She currently ministers as a spiritual director at Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.