By Bro. Brian Poulin, fms
May 2, 2020 – Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
How you doing?
At this point in the pandemic/quarantine, that question no longer bothers me. The abnormal has been normalized, and not only do my good days outnumber the bad, but I have a hard time remembering the last time I had a truly bad day. Mind you, it could have been last week… but last week feels like a year ago feels like yesterday. Even if things aren’t great (how could they be great?) they are ‘good enough’ to be able to take challenges in stride. It is also now comprehensible to me that in the middle of this hardship and tragedy somebody out there could be truly living their best life. I also know that between the degenerating economic conditions and the illness itself, a far greater number of people are suffering more than they could have ever imagined.
No matter the good, bad, or ugly that we are each going through though, I imagine that every single one of us has become much more difficult to shock. The next unthinkable circumstance seems almost inevitable—whether it ends up being unthinkably terrible or (please God) unthinkably wonderful.
How you doing? Perhaps the better question is, “How are you managing?” as in, “What are your current survival strategies and how are they working for you?”
Like most of us, I am not in a situation where I can take my physical well-being for granted. I exercise caution and hope for the best, knowing that I stand a very good chance as long as I just put in a little bit of deliberate effort. This leaves me energy to attend to my psychological, emotional, spiritual, and social health—aspects of well-being that significantly determine the quality of life once the fact of life has been preserved.
I’m used to struggling with one or another of these issues every now and then. I’ve let relentless work schedules lead me to extreme crankiness. I shared a few months ago about how the intensity of my travels contributed to feelings of social isolation. We all have difficulties at times. I suspect now though that an ever greater number of us struggle with an ever greater number of these issues. In some cases, we may be confronting problems in ourselves that have been there all along but were previously obscured by the camouflage of various comings and goings. Regardless of our particular stresses though we must remember those whose suffering is greater still: more of us than we could have previously imagined are increasingly endangered by the dual threats of vulnerability to hunger and exposure to disease.
My work at the food pantry is a grace for me. I hope that my contributions make some things easier on the other volunteers, but I also know that the same amount of people would receive the same amount of food with or without my efforts. I am expendable. However, if I can lighten the load of the volunteers or speak to some of our Hispanic guests in their own language, I believe that by sharing my own spirit in this ministry I help share out God’s love and goodness that I have received. It is a blessing for me if I truly participate not only in God’s work, but also in God’s presence.
Perhaps the most-quoted sentiment of St. Marcellin Champagnat, our Marist founder, is, “to educate children, you must first love them and love them equally.” I have come to believe that this insight holds not only for teaching, but for any good work. The occasions in which most of us will directly save a life in this world are few. In most cases, even if I do save a life there would have been somebody else to rescue that person if I had not been there or had not stepped up. Love is about more than that: it is the means by which we can help a person enjoy greater contentment with even a very difficult life, if even for a moment. Love makes life bearable.
How are you doing? How are you managing? What are your current survival strategies and how are they working for you?
Or, how are you helping others to do even slightly better than they otherwise would? How do you help others manage? How do you help others survive or even thrive just a little bit more, especially the vulnerable in your midst?
How well do you love?
Anybody reading this most likely knows this week’s ‘ear candy’, whether from the Beatles, Joe Cocker, or the opening of The Wonder Years (which would once again be Joe Cocker). This cover though, done in that Zoom style that I find increasingly tiresome, is really good and the band is clearly having a lot of fun bringing their real friends in on the act. I hope the connection to this week’s post is apparent. I selected the ‘brain food’ for the anonymous bit of writing found at its core rather than the surrounding thoughts, though both are worthwhile. Enjoy!
Ear Candy: “With a Little Help from My Friends” by the Main Squeeze
Brain Food: “We Are Not All in the Same Boat” by Chloe Cuthbert (& Unknown Author)
Come back next Saturday for a new post!