The world around us is still very scary and we are all feeling anxious, overwhelmed and helpless, not sure how or when things are going to get back to some sort of normal! However there are also signs that perhaps we don’t want to go back to that old normal, signs that the world and those around us are beginning to appreciate that life is better in many ways, families are spending time together, communities are pulling together like never before and creation is being restored to its original beauty – rivers and oceans are clearer, the air is fresher and nature is coming alive again – we can hear the birds singing! So much that is better because we have had to put life on hold – had to leave our cars at home, had to stop shopping continuously and had to take time for ourselves. At this time I reflect on Henri Nouwen’s words in “The Way to the Heart” which seem particularly pertinent:
Small signs of friendliness can create much joy, and small disturbances between people much sadness, while the “great events” of the day often do not touch us so deeply. An unexpected note from a friend or the passing remark of a neighbor can make or break your day emotionally….But how little do we use this knowledge? What is easier than writing a thank you note, than sending a card “just to say hello” or give a call “just to see how things have been”? Still, I realize that every time someone says, “I liked your talk” or “I appreciated your remark” or “Your note really helped” or “You really seem to feel at home here” – I feel my inner life being lifted up and the day seems brighter, the grass greener, the snow whiter than before. Indeed, the great mystery is that a small, often quite immaterial gesture can change my heart so much.
In these days of “social distancing,” “shelter in place” and quarantine, reaching out to encourage someone else is the best antidote to isolation, distress and fear. A note, a card, a call, even just a comment (and certainly a prayer!) can be a ray of sunshine into the heart of someone else. The inner life of another can be lifted up and their day can be made brighter by just a small effort on our part. Let’s all be emissaries of hope, reflecting the grace, mercy and love of God in the midst of troubled times.